A union representing non-teachers at Los Angeles Unified — including custodians, food service workers, truck drivers and other essential workers — has reached agreement with the district in preparation for the eventual reopening of schools for in-person instruction, the union announced Monday.
In a statement released Monday morning, Service Employees International Union Local 99 said the agreement with LAUSD will allow for the reopening of some school-based services that were shut down on Dec. 10, 2020, when LAUSD imposed a safer-at-home order in response to a winter surge in COVID-19 cases.
LAUSD remains closed for now to in-person learning for its more than 550,000 students at K-12 schools as its teachers’ union demands vaccinations before returning. In-person instruction has been unavailable to the vast majority of the roughly 1.5 million students in public and private schools countywide since March 2020.
The agreement with non-teachers begins a process for returning thousands of employees to campuses to prepare schools for the eventual reopening to students, the union said.
“As education workers, we understand it is urgent to restore services to students — especially the most vulnerable. We believe this agreement begins to lay the groundwork for a safe return to in-person instruction while balancing the health and safety of students, school workers and the entire school community,” SEIU Local 99 Executive Director Max Arias said.
Highlights of the agreement, according to the union, include:
— Essential workers will have priority for the vaccine, including those currently stationed at the Grab and Go food sites, district warehouses, test and vaccination sites, and childcare centers.
— No workers will be required to return to a worksite without first being offered the voluntary vaccine.
— Workers who are required to quarantine due to exposure to COVID-19 will receive emergency paid sick leave.
— Hero Pay of an additional $5 per hour will be given to all workers required to report to a worksite until in-person instruction resumes and all employees are required to return to school.
Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Austin Beutner has said the district’s plan is to reopen all preschools and elementary schools in Los Angeles Unified and offer services to students with special learning needs within 60 days, or no later than April 9.
Beutner, in his weekly address given Monday, did not specifically comment on the agreement with SEIU Local 99, but he said childcare, one-on-one and small group instruction, services for students with special needs and athletic conditioning will resume next week.
He emphasized how educators are all connected at schools.
“A bus driver takes students to school, a principal unlocks the front door, a teacher leads in the classroom, a cafeteria worker prepares lunch and a custodian keeps the school clean. Coordinated vaccines for school staff will help reopen schools quickly so we don’t have a situation where teachers at a school are vaccinated, but not the bus driver or vice versa,” he said.
Beutner said that as difficult as it was to close school classrooms, reopening them will be even harder as the district balances the learning needs of students and the responsibility to protect the health and safety of all in the school community.
“We’ve done our part. The highest standards of health measures are in place at schools,” Beutner said. “A critical piece remains: timely and sufficient access to vaccinations for school staff… My goal of April 9 is still possible, but we need to start today, not tomorrow, not next week. We stand ready to work with state and local health authorities. Get us the doses and we’ll get it done as we have in food relief, computers and internet access and COVID testing for the entire school community. But the clock’s ticking — we need to act now.”