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Back To Live-Streamed Lessons. The New (Temporary) Plan For Teaching LAUSD's Quarantined Students

A principal holding a walkie-talkie reaches toward a child who's seated at a desk to adjust a face mask that's not covering the child's nose.
Principal Juana Cortez adjusts a student’s mask on the first day of school at Montara Avenue Elementary School in South Gate.
(Alborz Kamalizad
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Teachers in Los Angeles Unified schools will have to live-stream video of their lessons over Zoom if COVID-19 cases force some of their students into quarantine.

L.A. Unified School District officials handed down that mandate on Sunday. Just two weeks into the school year, coronavirus cases have already forced thousands of students to stay home to quarantine. Until now, it was not clear how LAUSD teachers were supposed to handle these students’ absences from the classroom.

LAUSD Interim Superintendent Megan Reilly said the new plan, which is temporary, must be in place by Sept. 8, according to the district’s instructions to principals.

“Students and families need clear expectations and support for learning at home while they’re asked to isolate or quarantine,” Reilly said in a statement. “This plan serves as an interim guide for educators and supporting students during this difficult and unique time.”

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The LAUSD teacher’s union is pushing back on the plan, criticizing Reilly for instituting rules “without having reached a bargaining agreement as required by law."

Negotiations with United Teachers Los Angeles continue over a permanent policy for how the district should handle a partially- or fully quarantined class. Here’s what UTLA negotiators demanded last week:

  • If anyone in an LAUSD preschool or elementary school classroom tests positive for COVID-19, the union proposed that all students and staff in that room must quarantine — regardless of the likelihood they were exposed. Currently, students or staff only have to quarantine if they were a “close contact,” defined as someone who spent more than 15 minutes within six feet of the positive case.
  • UTLA proposed that teachers have the option to offer — for additional pay — after-school office hours to quarantined students instead of live-streaming their lessons over Zoom. UTLA contends this option allows for more flexibility. LAUSD negotiators are currently insisting that elementary teachers offer at least three hours of live lessons per day, and secondary teachers should stream at least 30 minutes of each class period.
  • The union wants LAUSD to require students get vaccinated once they become eligible — a policy that would follow the lead of districts like Culver City Unified.

The union’s statement called Reilly’s decision to “unilaterally” impose the interim rules an “act of bad faith bargaining,” and said that UTLA would file a formal complaint with California’s labor relations board.

So far, a relatively small number of positive COVID-19 cases has forced thousands into quarantine. The vast majority of students have not tested positive to date. For those sent home, teachers, students and parents have reported confusion over what the contingency plan they should follow. In some instances, quarantined students got little to no instruction.

Complicating the matter is Assembly Bill 130, the state law that aimed to end the widespread use of “distance learning” or “hybrid instruction” as it was practiced last school year — that is, students alternating between attending classes remotely and in-person.

Lawmakers who backed that bill said distance learning was never intended to be permanent. However, the reality of active coronavirus cases in schools is already creating demands to rethink that position.

Under that law, students who opted out of in-person instruction would only have one option: an independent study program. Now, LAUSD appears to be authorizing teachers to use hybrid techniques under the mantle of “short-term independent study” to ensure classes can continue during quarantine.

What questions do you have about K-12 education in Southern California?
Kyle Stokes reports on the public education system — and the societal forces, parental choices and political decisions that determine which students get access to a “good” school (and how we define a “good school”).

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