The COVID-19 crisis has disrupted nearly every aspect of our education system, and it is undeniable that these disruptions will have long-lasting negative impacts on our most vulnerable students. This week’s announcement from the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) that it will continue to use the virtual learning structure through the fall semester will further leave our children behind their counterparts who have better access to the tools necessary for virtual learning.

While we understand that this is necessary to reduce the potentially devastating impact the COVID-19 pandemic could have if the schools were to open, we must begin to take action to make up for the damage that the pandemic will cause.

The pandemic and the consequential continuation of virtual learning will continue to exacerbate the racial inequities in our school system. We expect that our Black and Latino students will fall behind at least ten months in their education journey. According to a recent analysis from LAUSD, Black and Latino students’ online participation rate is between 10 and 20% less than that of their White and Asian peers–the equivalent of more than 50,000 Black and Latino students not showing up for class each week. School closures also impact families now struggling with finding and affording childcare and providing the meals that their children would otherwise eat at school.

Beyond the numbers, we can see that prolonged social isolation, the cancellation of graduations, proms, sports, and other school activities can drain student motivation and decrease performance.  If we do not act now, the gaps in education will likely continue to grow beyond the pandemic. With state and local budgets already under stress, schools are bracing for cuts to k-12 education, which will disproportionately hit low-income Black and Latino students. Without immediate action, the educational gaps embedded in the current system will grow.

We must meet these challenges with an unprecedented level of commitment and collaboration. The Los Angeles Urban League is working with governmental, corporate, and community partners to provide our families with basic needs, which, in addition to food and housing, must include connectivity, and computer needs. We are actively unifying and amplifying our advocacy efforts with organizations such as Great Public Schools Now, Speak Up! and Parent Revolution to demand that LAUSD rise to the moment and not leave our Black students behind. Also, we are working with programs such as Tutormate to connect corporate volunteers with 1st graders to practice reading exercises each week, and our popular Biz Camp has successfully transitioned online to educate and inspire young entrepreneurs.

Once the pandemic is over, we should establish Saturday school programs run by community colleges and other colleges and universities and community-based organizations throughout Los Angeles County to make up for the days, weeks, and months lost during this pandemic.

Los Angeles Urban League is continuing our fight for disadvantaged families and students. Join us in the fight and support our work!