A teachers’ union in Los Angeles approved an agreement with the local school district on March 21 to physically reopen schools starting in mid-April.
United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) announced that after four days of voting, 89 percent of union members approved an agreement with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) on safe physical return to classrooms and hybrid instruction.
UTLA and LAUSD reached a tentative agreement on March 9; the LAUSD Board of Education ratified the agreement on March 11.
Currently, the district is tentatively planning for a physical return for students from transitional kindergarten (TK) to 6th grade starting mid-April. And for students in grades 7 to 12, the return time is expected to be by the end of April or early May.
The agreement (pdf) states that all adults and students—including students in Early Education and from TK to grade 2—must wear masks at all times on campus and keep a minimum distance of 6 feet.
UTLA specifically pointed out that the recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of 3 feet distance in schools doesn’t affect the agreement—teachers and students still need to keep a minimum distance of 6 feet at school.
On March 19, the CDC recommended a 3-foot physical distance between students in the classroom.
“The agreement prevents the dangerous erosion of safety standards that we have seen over the course of this pandemic. If members ratify the agreement, the safety measures are locked in, and nothing the CDC or any other body does can weaken the protocols,” the union stated on its website.
“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,” UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz said in a statement.
LAUSD schools closed a year ago, on March 16, 2020.
“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,” she said.
Austin Beutner, superintendent of LAUSD, announced March 22 that elementary students would return to school as early as April 13.
He said that LAUSD schools have the highest COVID safety standards in the nation.
“We’ve upgraded the air filtration systems in every classroom, reconfigured school facilities to keep all at a school appropriately distanced—doubled the custodial staff, and we’ll provide weekly COVID testing at school for every student and staff member.”
Beutner said that about 28 percent of elementary school students would attend school in person. About 17 percent of middle schoolers and 10 percent of high schoolers would return to school physically.
UTLA noted that the school district has the right to open the schools and require teachers to return, but without the agreement, “the district will be able to act unilaterally on most conditions of a return.”