The Los Angeles Unified School District and its teachers union have reached a tentative agreement on returning to in-person instruction, about a year after students began learning remotely.
The deal would require all students and staff to be tested for COVID-19 before returning to their campuses and submit to weekly testing thereafter. Masks and social distancing will be required. Teachers and other school workers wouldn’t have to return to work inside schools until they had the opportunity to get a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the agreement.
COVID-19 is the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
“The agreement provides for the reopening of schools when Los Angeles County is in the red tier according to the state school guidelines, that all staff have access to the COVID vaccine and that schools are kept clean and safe,” Superintendent Austin Beutner and United Teachers of Los Angeles President Cecily Myart-Cruz said in a joint statement.
“As we have both stated for some time, the right way to reopen schools must include the highest standard of COVID safety in schools, continued reduction of the virus in the communities we serve, and access to vaccinations for school staff. This agreement achieves that shared set of goals. It’s our shared commitment to the highest safety standards and spirit of trust and collaboration we will take with us back to schools.”
While the agreement is subject to approval by the Los Angeles Unified Board of Education and ratification by the union’s membership. Kelly Gonez, the board’s president, signaled her support.
“Exciting news!” she said on Facebook. “LA Unified will be reopening in a hybrid model, starting with elementary schools next month. With this agreement with our teachers, we are ready to begin to bring students back safely.”
Elementary school students would go to school every day in the morning or afternoon under a hybrid model, while students in middle and high school would keep learning virtually for now. The agreement will allow any student to continue learning outside the classroom.
Those students would have “the opportunity to return to campus for peer interaction, social-emotional learning, and lessons for college and career exploration,” according to a summary of the agreement.
The teachers union had resisted what it described as a “premature” return to classrooms, stemming from fears of the virus. Studies show that reopening schools for in-person instruction hasn’t led to a significant increase in community transmission of the illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month recommended a return to physical classes, if certain steps were taken.
Approximately 47 percent of K-12 students in the United States have returned to five-day-a-week in-person classes as of March 8, according to the tracking website Burbio. California is lagging, sitting last in Burbio’s state-by-state in-person index.
“Most of the state’s large districts have no plans to return students in March,” Burbio said in a blog post.
The tentative Los Angeles agreement itself wasn’t released. According to details obtained by the Los Angeles Times, the agreement has no set date for a return to physical classes.
Middle and high schools could remain closed until May and when students do return, they’d start by continuing to learn online even though they’d be physically present in their schools, aside from a single period each day.