LOS ANGELES, CA — As the the Aug. 18 start of the school year looms, teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest district in the nation, are saying they don’t feel safe returning to their classrooms during the pandemic, according to the teachers union. The United Teachers Los Angeles leadership is recommending and entirely online fall semester.
The board of directors and bargaining team for the union representing teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District is recommending campuses remain closed, and the union as a whole is expected to take the same stance. If LAUSD schools were to keep their doors shut in the fall, it could have ripple effects across the country as schools, teachers and families decide whether to return to campuses. When LAUSD schools shut down in March, districts across the state swiftly followed
“We all want to physically open schools and be back with our students, but lives hang in the balance,” UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz said Thursday. “Safety has to be the priority. We need to get this right for our communities.”
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The union also cited a lack of state and federal funding for increased health and safety measures and what it called the lack of time for the district to put together the detailed, rigorous plans needed for a safe return to campus.
The union also released a research paper Thursday on conditions that must be met before staff and students can safely return, “Same Storm but Different Boats: The Safe and Equitable Conditions for Starting LAUSD in 2020- 21.”
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The union will poll members Friday to find out where they stand on re- opening campuses.
L.A. school officials have yet to make a decision on reopening, but when it happens, the district would offer two options: a learning-from-home program and a hybrid plan that would combine learning at home with part-time attendance on campus in small socially distanced classes, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Earlier in the week, L.A. County Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer told school district leaders that they must prepare for the possibility that students would need to continue learning remotely 100% of the time at the start of the school year.
The announcement follows a head-spinning series developments at the federal level this week after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued coronavirus protocols for schools, only to provoke the ire of President Donald Trump. After Trump declared the guidelines too strict, Vice President Mike Pence announced plans to loosen them. Then on Thursday, the CDC announced it would not, in fact, alter its guidelines.
The nation’s largest school districts, Los Angeles and New York, have warned that the upcoming school year is likely to involve a measure of distance learning. According to the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told a conference call of school superintendents that the current surge in new COVID-19 cases threatens the reopening of schools.
On Wednesday, Trump fired off a barrage of tweets threatening to withhold funding for schools that don’t fully return to in-person classes.
Myart-CruzIn criticized the politicization of health considerations and singled out President Donald Trump. The president and his advisors insisted that children would be better off in traditional classes and a regular school schedule would allow parents to return to work, helping families and also providing a necessary boost to the economy.
Given the surge of the virus in L.A. County, Myart-Cruz called Trump’s threats over funding “alarming.”
In a Facebook thread this week, union members, who include teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians, expressed their concerns.
“You think I’m safe at 71 going into a classroom of students… or any of my colleagues?” wrote Sandy Dorfman, who teaches at Castlebay Lane Elementary in Porter Ranch, in remarks reported by The Times. “The air conditioning system will recirculate the sick air throughout the school! Has anyone thought of that? Does anyone think kids are keeping masks on properly? Do you think we can hear elementary kids through masks? All day long kids leaving class to go to the bathroom… touching door knobs — insanity!”
City News Service and Patch Staffer Paige Austin contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared on the Hollywood Patch