LA Teachers Are On Strike: A Guide For LAUSD Parents

Thousands of teachers march in the rain through downtown Los Angeles on Jan. 14, 2019, on the first day of the first teachers strike in 30 years targeting the Los Angeles Unified School District. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

UPDATED Wednesday, January 16.

(To read in Spanish, click here.)

It's upon us: 30,000 Los Angeles Unified teachers are on on strike.

The walkout came after a steady drumbeat of news as negotiations between the nation's second largest school district and the union representing its teachers failed to end in a deal, two years after the last contract ran out.

Monday's strike leave some 484,000 students at Los Angeles Unified School District schools without their usual classes.

To be clear, schools will be open. But if you're a parent, you're going to have to make some difficult decisions.

Here's a guide to what's going on:

The strike is underway, what's happening at schools?

LAUSD says all schools will be open. School hours will be the same. Morning and afterschool programs will run and meals will be served.

So who will look after the children?

In terms of the normal staff: very few. Picture your school not only without teachers, but without the librarian (if you have one), the nurse (if you have one), and without counselors or social workers.

Even substitute teachers are members of the union, United Teachers Los Angeles.

That means the remaining adults will be the principals and — maybe — cafeteria staff, custodial staff, front office staff, school police and any parent volunteers.

To help out, LAUSD says it plans to send 2,000 credentialed administrators from the Central Office and Local Districts.

Even so, it's likely students will be supervised in large groups, in places like auditoriums.

What about pre-school students?

LAUSD's Early Education Centers and state-run pre-K programs will not be open for the duration of the strike. One execption: Children enrolled in the Preschool Collaborative Program — which serves students with special needs — may attend classes from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Will any teaching be done?

The district has said the administrators and other qualified staff could serve as teachers, and has reportedly hired 400 non-union substitutes to use as needed, although that's less than one for every school.

Vivian Ekchian, the district's deputy superintendent, told KPCC's Take Two that LAUSD has been planning for this situation for many months.

"We have taken every possible step to make sure that stability at our community sites continues," she said. "The entrance to the school will be highly monitored; students will be welcomed; they'll be taken to safe places. We have lessons in advance, in grab-and-go kits that we've prepared for months, and the individuals going to the school sites are prepared to be teaching."

However, she added: "Now, will it be like any other day of the year? Probably not. But will we make sure our most prized possessions, our students, are kept safe and comfortable and learning? Absolutely."

Wouldn't it be just better to keep my child at home?

District officials say students "are expected to attend every day," not least because state funding is tied to students being present in school. But they also said absences would not impact graduation.

But in less-public settings, they have also said they expect attendance to plummet. Parents will have to draw their own conclusions about the best course of action.

Merete Rietveld, parent of a kindergartner at Eagle Rock Elementary, said she'd rather have her child at home than "in front of a video in the auditorium, and that's what they're going to be doing all day."

So she and a small group of other families are making plans to spread out the childcare, rotating from one house to another so only one family needs to take off work that day.

"The kids will be together every day," Rietveld told LAist, "and hopefully, you know, maybe doing some educational exercises and playing together so they won't be at home by themselves every day."

Will there be a picket line to cross?

It depends on the school, but it's likely. Some parents say their reluctance to cross the line is another reason to keep their kids at home. Others say they'll take their child to school, but will then turn around and join the teachers on the picket line.

My child has special needs, and has an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). What will happen?

Last week, LAUSD attorneys asked a federal judge to block any UTLA member who provides services to special education students from going on strike. That would have meant not only teachers, but social workers, nurses and psychologists. The district says 60,000 students receive special education services.

But on Jan. 4, U.S. District Judge Ronald Lew rejected LAUSD's move to block special ed teachers from striking.

The takeaway: The district says it's devoting as many resources as it can — but it might not be pretty.

"Have we planned to make sure that the individuals who have the most knowledge about students with special needs go to the campuses that have the largest number of students with special needs? Absolutely," Ekchian said on Take Two.

"But are we concerned that the personalization that is dictated in the IEP will be able to occur moment by moment, day by day? We are concerned about that."

UPDATES:

Jan. 14, 7:30 a.m.: This article was updated with information about pre-school programs being shuttered during the strike and news that the strike is underway.

Jan. 9, 11:53 a.m.: This article was updated with news that union leaders postponed the strike to Monday, Jan. 14.

This article was originally published on Jan. 8.