L.A. schools aim to recruit babies to stem drop in enrollment

It’s not every day that the superintendent of the country’s second largest school district promotes comfort blankets and onesies. But on Tuesday, Los Angeles school principal Alberto Carvalho launched a student recruitment campaign that started as early as possible — and targeted newborns in maternity wards, beginning with the LA County-USC Medical Center.

In a school system faced with worrying enrollment projections – a 30% drop over the next decade – the Born to Learn campaign is part inspiration and part despair.

Carvalho wants to offer parents of prospective students an education at the LA Unified School District — before the babies lose their umbilical cords.

And there’s swag in a cheerful 8.5-inch cardboard cube of LAUSD-branded gear: a hat, onesie, bib, and plush blanket that Carvalho couldn’t resist calling a “blanket.”

“You must have some swag if you were born right here,” he said.

The ambitions for the effort are high.

“The concept of health extends well beyond the walls of a hospital, and we recognize that education is so critical to family development and child development,” said Jorge Orozco, chief executive of the medical center.

The box also includes information on developmental milestones by age and what a child should be learning at that point.

It is an “easy to understand process that aligns activities cognitive development, physical development with the child’s age,” said Carvalho while working through a box.

Also included is a congratulatory letter “on behalf of the Los Angeles School District community” — signed by Carvalho on letterhead with the names of the seven members of the Board of Education.

“Los Angeles Unified is committed to supporting your child and providing the resources necessary for their success,” the letter reads, adding that the attached items are “a small token of our gratitude to you and in celebration.” of this joyful moment”.

There is also a leaflet with instructions on when to enroll in early education – from age 2 – along with a pitch for subsequent years.

The entry for “ages 5 – 18+” notes, “There are many quality and specialty programs at LA Unified,” listing some of them – “bilingual schools, STEM magnets, music and arts, sports, and more.” – along with a web address.

The box, Carvalho said, also includes information on current and future family services, particularly for disadvantaged communities.

The hospital’s charity foundation and wellness center already offer most of the services Carvalho spoke of, including helping families get healthy groceries and classes on parenting and child development, said Rosa Soto, director of the hospital foundation.

Now there is public education, which extends the timeline of aid, she said.

“We want to make sure that — in terms of support — we really care about the family and the little kid that’s about to be born,” Soto said, adding, “Our priority is that journey to a better experience, a healthy home environment and a healthy community environment.”

The hope is that more families will receive timely help and that LA Unified will take a step forward in accommodating the 1,000 babies per month that are born at County-USC Medical Center — and later expand the effort to other hospitals.

That might sound like a lot of babies, but even if every child eventually enrolls in LAUSD, it may not be enough to reverse the expected decline of about 3% per year. There are approximately 422,000 students in the school system.

Declining enrollments are making it difficult to keep all of the district’s schools open and offering a full academic program. There is also less funding for employee pensions and healthcare benefits.

The hospital did not make parents-to-be or parents of newborns available to discuss their educational aspirations for their babies.

But the box contains a dummy high school diploma.

“This is how we say that we care so much about you,” Carvalho said, “that we will be with you all the time.”

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-11-01/l-a-schools-have-new-enrollment-plan-recruit-babies L.A. schools aim to recruit babies to stem drop in enrollment

Alley Einstein

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