Los Angeles Unified School District campuses will resume in-person instruction in mid-April for pre-school and elementary students, and by the end of April for secondary students, under a tentative agreement announced Tuesday evening between the district and the teachers’ union.
“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,” LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner and United Teachers Los Angeles President Cecily Myart-Cruz said in a joint statement announcing the agreement.
“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,” they said. “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.”
Although the agreement is considered tentative, it will almost assuredly be approved by the LAUSD Board of Education and UTLA members.
The agreement provides for a “hybrid model” combining online and in-person instruction while adhering to state and local guidelines that students remain in small stable groups without intermingling with students.
According to the district and union, the agreement includes:
— daily in-person instruction for elementary school students in a hybrid morning/afternoon model, with students given the option of remaining in strictly online instruction;
— daily online instruction for secondary students, with the opportunity to return to campus for peer interaction, social-emotional learning and lessons for college and career exploration;
— full-day, in-person instruction for preschool students;
— maintaining current teacher assignments whenever possible;
— required COVID testing of students and staff prior to their return to campus, followed by weekly testing;
— required masking and social distancing for students, staff and visitors;
— school sanitation requirements, with the district noting a $120 million upgrade to ventilation systems and to procure protective equipment and hire custodial staff;
— social-emotional support for students;
— additional teacher training; and
— meals provided for students, whether they are receiving in-person or online instruction.
Under state guidelines, Los Angeles County schools can reopen for students in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade. Students in grades 7 through 12 can return to in-person classes once the county advances to the “red” tier of the state’s economic reopening blueprint. That could happen as soon as this weekend.
Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed a $6.6 billion legislative package providing funds to schools throughout the state to help recoup learning lost during the pandemic, which has forced students into online-only instruction. The package includes $2 billion in incentive funds for schools that resume in-person instruction for students in pre-kindergarten through second grade by April 1. Schools that fail to reopen by that date will lose 1% of their share of funding for every day they miss the deadline.
UTLA leaders have been resisting the push to return to in-person instruction, insisting that while COVID-19 case rates have been dropping generally throughout the county, many low-income communities served by the district have disproportionately high case rates.
UTLA’s members last week overwhelmingly approved a statement saying in-person instruction should not resume until the county advances to the “red” tier, until all school staff are fully vaccinated or provided access to vaccinations, and until stringent safety measures are in place at schools.
All of those demands, however, were already on the verge of being met by the time the union’s vote was finalized. Los Angeles County is expected to advance to the “red” tier by the weekend. Vaccination of school staff began last week, and Newsom has allocated 25,000 doses to the LAUSD, the number Beutner said previously was needed to get elementary schools reopened. And the county Department of Public Health has already approved the district’s COVID Safety Plan outlining the protective measures being implemented on campuses.