L.A. Teachers Union Calls for Schools to Remain Closed, Only Classes Online

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The board of directors and bargaining team for the union representing teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District is recommending campuses remain closed when the new school year begins Aug. 18, and the union as a whole is expected to take the same stance.

United Teachers Los Angeles wants the district to focus on online classes for the fall semester.

“We all want to physically open schools and be back with our students, but lives hang in the balance,” UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz said Thursday. “Safety has to be the priority. We need to get this right for our communities.”

The union also cited a lack of state and federal funding for increased health and safety measures and what it called the lack of time for the district to put together the detailed, rigorous plans needed for a safe return to campus.

The union also released a research paper Thursday on conditions that must be met before staff and students can safely return, “Same Storm but Different Boats: The Safe and Equitable Conditions for Starting LAUSD in 2020- 21.”

The union will poll members Friday to find out where they stand on re- opening campuses.

L.A. school officials have yet to make a decision on reopening, but when it happens, the district would offer two options: a learning-from-home program and a hybrid plan that would combine learning at home with part-time attendance on campus in small socially distanced classes, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Earlier in the week, L.A. County Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer told school district leaders that they must prepare for the possibility that students would need to continue learning remotely 100% of the time at the start of the school year.

Myart-CruzIn criticized the politicization of health considerations and singled out President Donald Trump, who this week called for campuses to reopen and threatened to withhold funding from those that did not. The president and his advisors insisted that children would be better off in traditional classes and a regular school schedule would allow parents to return to work, helping families and also providing a necessary boost to the economy.

Given the surge of the virus in L.A. County, Myart-Cruz called Trump's threats over funding “alarming.”

In a Facebook thread this week, union members, who include teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians, expressed their concerns.

“You think I'm safe at 71 going into a classroom of students... or any of my colleagues?” wrote Sandy Dorfman, who teaches at Castlebay Lane Elementary in Porter Ranch, in remarks reported by The Times.

“The air conditioning system will recirculate the sick air throughout the school! Has anyone thought of that? Does anyone think kids are keeping masks on properly? Do you think we can hear elementary kids through masks? All day long kids leaving class to go to the bathroom... touching door knobs -- insanity!”

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