The Los Angeles Unified School District has been in deadlock with its teachers’ union about reopening schools for over eight months and has finally reached a tentative accord. In-person instruction, they announced on March 9, 2021, can begin in mid-April, making LA one of the last large school districts to put students back in the classrooms. This decision affects over 600,000 students and 86,000 staff.
The accord is still fragile. Several major developments must happen for the reopening to go through, including comprehensive vaccination of teachers, extensive classroom health measures such as distancing and sanitation stations, and the county’s COVID-19 numbers dropping enough that health regulations relax slightly. The three conditions were endorsed by more than 90 percent of union members in a vote.
“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,” said a joint statement by district superintendent Austin Beutner and union president Cecily Myart-Cruz. “This agreement achieves that shared set of goals.”
Under the deal, which still needs several more tiers of approval, elementary school and high-need students will be brought back first, and other students will return only as their teachers become fully vaccinated. Vaccinations of teachers in California began in March 2021, and so far, just over 30,000 of the LA district’s educators and educational staff have had one or both doses.
For most, some remote classwork will remain, making it possible to keep class sizes small and groups stable. California has also committed $6.6 billion for programs to help students catch up with missed work, including tutoring, summer and after-school programs, and mental health support.
The Los Angeles district hopes to have all students back in class at least one day a week by early May. The last day of the 2020-21 school year will be June 11, but the brief spell of in-person learning is expected to be valuable.