The United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), the teachers union for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), voted by a vast majority to return to in-class instruction beginning next month. They held out until Sunday before taking the vote to return.
The terms of the agreement included meeting three safety criteria for returning. As previously demanded by the UTLA earlier this month before a LAUSD vote on returning to classroom learning, teachers will not be returning to class in Los Angeles if they are not offered or don’t have access to COVID-19 vaccines, if classrooms do not have proper safety protocols such as PPE usage and improved ventilation, and if Los Angeles County returns to the purple reopening tier. In addition, the UTLA also noted that lowered CDC safety protocols, such as reducing social distancing guidelines from 6 feet to 3 feet would not effect their decision to come back.
The UTLA agreed to the new agreement with the LAUSD with 18, 217 votes in favor of returning under the criteria and only 2,286 opposed, or 89% of teachers to only 11%.
With an agreement now in place, the LAUSD, who had previously approved the plan earlier this month, can begin to reopen starting next month. K-6 classes are expected to return sometime in mid-April, with Junior High and High School expected to come back at the end of April or early May.
“Every step of the way, UTLA educators have kept our students and communities safer, from the call to close down schools early in the pandemic to holding the line against an unsafe return,” said UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz on Sunday in a press release. “While the improving COVID-19 situation is still fragile, we believe this agreement puts LAUSD on the path to a physical reopening of schools that puts safety first.”
Students to have stay at home option for rest of spring
While LA public schools will now be fully reopened by May, students and parents can still decide whether or not they want to go in, with students having the option to complete the spring semester from home.
“We recognize the decision whether a child will return to school at this time is not a simple one,” said Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner of the stay at home part of the agreement.
However, the delay in reopening past the expected April 1st date in California will have negative actions on LA public schools. As schools can lose 1% of extra funding per day that they don’t open under a recently passed $6.6 billion California school reopening plan, Los Angeles could lose millions of dollars in grants that could have gone to PPE and other expected higher safety costs of getting schools ready to reopen. While the LAUSD will still get a share of part of the funding, none of the guaranteed funding is specifically earmarked for safety improvements around COVID-19, such as ventilation system upgrades and PPE.
LA Parents are also upset at the delay in reopening.
“We are happy that they’re going back and that an agreement was finally reached,” explained Jayne Mendoza, a parent group leader at her child’s school in Los Angeles, to the Globe. “But the way it happened is totally unacceptable. It’s pretty obvious that the teachers were just in it for themselves here. We have so many children who need special attention, or need to learn English, or other much needed interactions that are best done person to person, but they chose themselves over duty. They forced themselves to get vaccines earlier and held students futures as hostage to do so.
“What they really just did was make an entire generation of parents, and a generation of future parents, be against them.”
Other school districts across the state are expected to return in April as well, with San Diego and San Francisco set to begin returning to in-class instruction April 12th, Sacramento on April 8th, and San Jose on April 21st.
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