LA Teachers' Union Overwhelmingly Votes Against Reopening Schools

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UPDATE: In a poll taken on Friday, 83% of UTLA members said LAUSD should not physically reopen schools on Aug. 18.

More than 18,000 of the union's 30,000-plus members responded to the informal poll. The poll inidcates the rank-and-file members of the union agrees with the position of the UTLA Board of Directors and the team that is bargaining with the school district over reopening.

"It is hitting us hard to think we may not be back with our students in the fall," UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz said. "And we know this is hard on our students and their parents, so many of whom have stepped up as our partners in teaching while struggling with the economic fallout of this crisis. But safety must come first, along with a commitment to focus on strengthening distance learning."

ORIGINAL STORY: Amid pressure from the Trump Administration to fully reopen schools this fall, the union representing L.A. Unified School District teachers is calling for campuses to remain closed and for online learning to continue when classes start again in August.

"The safety and well-being of our students is and will always be our priority," UTLA vice president Gloria Martinez told KPCC's Larry Mantle. "And because of the unknowns, it would be reckless for us to say, 'let's reopen schools and let's put students in danger, and see what happens.' We're just not ready to make that call."

Martinez was speaking on behalf of the UTLA's Board of Directors and bargaining team, which released its stance on Friday morning. UTLA is polling its more than 30,000 members about their position on reopening campuses and plans to release the results on Friday evening. (We'll update this post with the outcome.)

A spokesperson for the district declined to comment on the union's position.


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LAUSD is scheduled to start the next school year, in one form or another, on Aug. 18. Though, as Superintendent Austin Beutner has pointed out in updates to the school community, that doesn't mean that all campuses have to resume pre-pandemic operations.

Beutner has said that the district is considering riffs on a hybrid model, including options where students could spend one day on campus and the other four days continuing their studies via distance learning, or with student cohorts alternating weeks on campus with weeks learning online.

While the California Department of Education and the Los Angeles County Office of Education have both released guidelines related to reopening schools, the decision ultimately comes down to districts themselves.

Jennifer McAffee, who teaches eighth grade at Dodson Middle School in Rancho Palos Verdes and is a member of UTLA's bargaining team, said the union asked LAUSD about specific protocols, including how classrooms will be able to maintain physical distancing, what physically distant lunch and transportation might look like, how they'll be able to ensure students have and keep face coverings on, and what mental health supports will be available.

The union on Friday released a 17-page document detailing the conditions it said would be necessary to safely reopen schools.

SEIU 99, which represents food service workers, custodians, bus drivers, and teachers' assistants, also weighed in.

"Unless Governor Gavin Newsom and the state legislature take immediate action to dedicate additional funds to school districts to implement social distancing protocols, proper PPE for all, training, testing and other safety measures, it will be almost impossible for classroom instruction to safely resume in the fall," SEIU Local 99 Executive Director Max Arias said in a statement.

UPDATE, 5:30 p.m.: This post was updated to reflect a change in the deadline for the membership poll. UTLA has extended the polling until 7 p.m.

LISTEN TO UTLA VICE PRESIDENT GLORIA MARTINEZ ON KPCC'S AIRTALK:

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