What You Need To Know About LAUSD Restarting Some In-Person Tutoring, Assessments

LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner demonstrates an electrostatic sprayer used to sanitize campuses. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

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The Los Angeles Unified School District and the union that represents its teachers have reached an agreement over how to offer in-person tutoring, assessments for students with special needs, and hybrid instruction for adults.

While schools in Los Angeles County are generally required to remain physically closed, there are some notable exceptions, including some waivers for grades TK-2 and providing "specialized services" in-person to students with special needs and English language learners.

As of October 5, more than 140 LAUSD schools have notified Los Angeles County public health officials of their intent to offer some type of in-person support to students, though the agreements between the district and United Teachers Los Angeles do not seem to address additional services for students with special needs or who are learning English, aside from the one-on-one assessments and tutoring.

Here's a breakdown of each of the agreements, as described in letters signed by district and union representatives.

IN-PERSON TUTORING

  • Tutoring will be offered one-on-one between 2:30-5:00 pm.
  • Each session will be 50 minutes long, with 10 minutes reserved each hour for cleaning and sanitizing between sessions.
  • When possible, the tutoring is supposed to happen in "an outdoor covered area" — or, if the instructor is okay with it, a classroom with enough space for physical distancing and "adequate air circulation."
  • Students will be given a plastic bag with personal learning supplies — like a white board or a notebook — that they can leave at the school.

While the county Department of Public Health allows for small, stable cohorts of students to return to campus, the agreements between the district and the union explicitly say the tutoring should be offered one-on-one.

In a statement, a district spokesperson explained that the tutoring is intended "to make sure every student has the foundation in literacy, math and critical thinking in elementary schools and to mitigate the effects of school closures," and emphasized that the tutoring opportunities are intended to be "over and above the school day."

You can read the side letter about in-person tutoring here.

IN-PERSON ASSESSMENTS

The assessments covered in the side letter include those for students with special needs and the English Language Proficiency Assessments for California (for students who are learning English), among others.

  • They can be completed indoors — but the space has to have "sufficient space for compliance with social distancing protocols and adequate air circulation."
  • Per the agreement, any materials used in the assessments can only be used once per day and must be cleaned before being reused.

The side letter does not seem to address other services for students with special needs, aside from the assessments, which must be provided one-on-one.

You can read the agreement on in-person assessments here.

IN-PERSON ADULT AND CAREER EDUCATION

Examples of in-person career and technical education coursework provided in the letters include teaching medical assistant students first aid, and giving welding students first-hand experience in welding and cutting.

  • This agreement does not explicitly state that this instruction should be provided one-on-one, like the other side letters do.
  • Instead, the district gets to decide how many students will be present with the teacher.
  • When possible, the instruction should happen outside.

You can read the LAUSD-UTLA agreement on adult and career education here.

We reached out to UTLA for comment on the agreements and their implementation, and will update this story as we hear back.

THE BACK STORY

When the option of welcoming back small groups of students in need of the most help was first made available in September, UTLA elementary Vice President Gloria Martinez said on our newsroom's public affairs show AirTalk (which airs on the radio at 89.3 KPCC) that the union did not believe the state, district, and county had done enough at that point to prepare the district to reopen. Martinez also said that doing so "not only puts our members at risk, but it puts a group of students who are already vulnerable at a greater risk."

Almost a month later, the agreements — which UTLA shared in its weekly update — show that anyone participating in the in-person assessments, tutoring, or adult and career education will have to be tested for COVID-19 before being allowed to participate. That includes the employees and the students.

The agreements all emphasize that teachers cannot be forced to do this in-person work if they feel uncomfortable or unsafe. They also require the district to follow the county's school reopening protocols — which all K-12 schools that are reopening for any type of in-person instruction with waivers for grades TK-2 or for small groups of high-needs students have to follow anyway.

"We are gratified that we could reach an agreement that supports our most vulnerable students and follows best practices to uphold the health and safety of our school communities," UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz said in an update to union members Friday morning.

In a statement, a district spokesperson said the agreements contain "the same state-of-the-art health practices that have been in place since the news school year began in August," including electrostatic cleaning, rearranged classrooms to maintain social distancing, masks, and updated air filtration systems.

All three agreements extend through the end of this calendar year, or "when LAUSD offers all students the option to return physically to a school site for hybrid instruction or resumes regular instruction, whichever comes first."