LAUSD, other districts keep campuses open; schools closed in Malibu and many CSUs go online

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 21: Students leaving school in Van Nuys huddle under umbrellas during a passing downpour on Tuesday, March 21, 2023. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
Students leaving school in Van Nuys huddle under umbrellas last March. LAUSD plans to keep schools open Monday and asks parents to be on the lookout for updates in case conditions change. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles public schools, with two exceptions, will be open Monday, officials have announced, reaffirming an earlier decision Supt. Alberto Carvalho made in concert with city and county officials.

Parents and school staff were urged to check social media and texts, phone messages and emails for further alerts.

Most, if not nearly all, other local public school districts also have planned to be open based on early reports. An exception is Malibu, which has hilly terrain that can become unstable in heavy rain. Malibu campuses are closed Monday.

Malibu is part of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. Campuses in Santa Monica will be open.

Also closed are schools that serve the mountainous Big Bear area, per an alert from the Bear Valley Unified School District: "The Governor's issuance of a State of Emergency in California and in San Bernardino County along with the storm and flooding predicted to continue throughout the day, all schools in Bear Valley are closed Monday, February 5th to ensure student safety."

Read more: California storm: After 5 days, the rain has stopped. In its wake, 9 dead, a trail of destruction

The two closed L.A. Unified schools are Vinedale College Preparatory Academy in Sunland and Topanga Elementary Charter School in Topanga. Both schools were affected by potentially dangerous hillside conditions. Students and staff at both schools were directed to other campuses for the day.

"We will continue to closely monitor conditions at all schools, and especially at those schools which are more often impacted by the rain," the early morning announcement said. "Individual school closures, if any, will be determined based on safety and on guidance provided by City and County response teams... Please use your best judgment based on the conditions where you live and your ability to safely travel to your school/work location."

Students who are unable to get to school will be able to access remote learning resources through the district's online platform.

Many students in the L.A. Unified School District rely on school for weekday meals, a factor that also influenced his decision to keep campuses open, Carvalho said Sunday.

"Considering the fact that our students depend on nutrition at school, we have made the decision at this point to maintain our schools open going into tomorrow," he said, adding that "during the time that our schools are open, the winds will subside."

The Vinedale campus, which serves transitional kindergarten through eighth grade, is affected by city-ordered mandatory evacuations in the area. Students and staff at that school are supposed to report to nearby Glenwood Elementary.

Read more: LAUSD schools open amid historic storm with 4 in 10 students staying home

Topanga Elementary students and staff are to report to Woodland Hills Academy, which is more than nine miles away and would include driving through steep terrain for many families. But for Monday, parents can opt out of sending their children to school.

Carvalho said conditions will differ throughout the sprawling district and that local decisions could vary. Plant managers at each school were to review readiness and report to senior administrators starting at 5 a.m. in the nation's second-largest school system.

At least seven campuses of the California State University system — Fullerton, Los Angeles, Northridge, Dominguez Hills, Cal Poly Pomona, San Bernardino and Cal State Long Beach — announced variations of online classes and modified operations for Monday. Students and staff were advised to watch university websites for updates; faculty at several campuses were urged to contact students about classes.

UC Santa Barbara asked instructors to move Monday classes online or to reschedule them and urged supervisors to allow staff to work remotely. The university planned to resume normal operations Tuesday.

USC and UCLA officials said Sunday evening that campuses will be open and classes will continue as usual.

Read more: Five days, up to 14 inches of rain: See the totals from a drenching few days in Southern California

Carvalho urged parents and employees to assess whether it was safe to travel to campuses and urged patience on what could be a disruptive day.

"We are encouraging ... parents to make the best decision on the basis of the conditions around their homes and the established route from home to school. We do not want anyone to put themselves in danger and that applies to our workforce," he said.

Carvalho also warned of altered bus routes that could lead to delays.

"It is not going to be an easy day," Carvalho said as he stood with a phalanx of city and county officials at the regional emergency operations center downtown.

His message represented a contrast to that of other officials, who simply urged people to stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary.

The feed of comments to the mayor's livestream filled with questions about the wisdom of opening schools — just as it likely would have filled with comments critical of closing campuses if that had been the choice.

Read more: Brutal storm will make direct hit on L.A. County, O.C.; people urged to avoid driving if possible

Parents and teachers on Sunday also reported getting messages advising them of online learning resources for students who remained home.

Last August the decision to close campuses ahead of Tropical Storm Hilary, which touched Los Angeles more lightly than expected, prompted some criticism — especially when the weather brought on a sunny Monday without school. That anticlimax had put Carvalho on the defensive at the time, even though the storm caused notable damage in other parts of the Southland.

Other school districts and institutions faced similar choices.

In Santa Barbara County, all public schools and community colleges will be closed Monday. Private schools will make their own decisions, said Adrienne Starr, a member of the local emergency operations team. Officials from the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District said the decision was "based on the latest data from the National Weather Service and the recommendation of Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown."

Times staff writer Teresa Watanabe contributed to this report.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.