The Los Angeles Unified School District reached a tentative agreement with its teachers union that would allow some students in the nation’s second largest school district to resume in-person learning for the first time in more than a year.
The deal will allow preschools and elementary schools to reopen in mid-April, though no specific start date was given. Services for students with disabilities of all ages would resume on campuses at the same time.
Middle and high-school students would continue with online learning for the foreseeable future, though the district said secondary schools would reopen in late April for “peer interaction, social-emotional learning and lessons for college and career exploration.”
“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,” LAUSD Superintendent
president of the United Teachers Los Angeles union, said in a joint statement. LAUSD teaches about 550,000 students, 84% of whom qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.
The deal is less robust than reopening agreements brokered in other major cities. Elementary and middle-school students are already back in classrooms in New York City, for example, and some in-person learning will resume at high schools later this month.
Los Angeles experienced one of the worst Covid-19 surges in the country in December and January, but case rates in the county have plummeted since then. The seven-day average positive rate for coronavirus tests is now 2.3%, down from 21% in late December.
The agreement comes after months of negotiations between district officials and the union, one of the most powerful in the nation, which took a hard line on vaccinations and other safety measures as a prerequisite for reopening.
Mr. Beutner has been urging a return to in-person instruction for weeks and said last week that he had secured enough doses to inoculate all elementary school teachers. In addition, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill last week providing billions of dollars in incentives for school districts that started opening by the end of March.
But United Teachers Los Angeles, which established itself as one of the most powerful public employee unions in the nation in a 2019 strike, refused to make a deal on public officials’ timelines.
In addition to masking and social distancing, the district agreed to provide Covid-19 tests to all students and staff before reopening campuses, with weekly testing going forward. Elementary school students will be taught in small, stable groups in a hybrid of classroom and virtual learning. Parents who want to keep their children in online learning may do so, the statement said.
If the union’s members and the Los Angeles Unified Board of Education ratify the agreement, it will carry the district through June of this year, leaving open the possibility that another round of bargaining may be necessary over what an autumn return to classrooms would look like.
In his State of the State speech Tuesday night, Mr. Newsom said nearly 7,000 of California’s 11,000 schools had already reopened and that “we won’t be satisfied until everybody is back in school.”
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Appeared in the March 10, 2021, print edition as ‘Los Angeles Deal Sets In-Person Schooling.’
Source: WSJ – US News