After nearly a year of home-schooling and remote teaching, students in California may be headed back to the classrooms after Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders reached a multibillion-dollar deal aimed at encouraging schools to resume in-person instruction for young students by April 1. However, union demands for COVID vaccinations of teachers and a further reduction in transmission rates may mean schools in Los Angeles will miss that date.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the deal includes $6.6 billion to get campuses across the state reopening. Of the $6.6 billion, $2 billion would be set aside as an incentive pool to encourage campuses to reopen sooner. The other $4.6 billion would go to "reimagining the school year."
Schools that elect to reopen would need to do so by April 1 or risk losing 1% of their portion of the funds for every day they miss the deadline.
Any deal would need formal approval by the legislature.
Funds would be made available to schools in those counties that have seen their transmission rates of COVID-19 fall beneath an average less than 25 per 100,000 residents. Currently, Los Angeles County and much of Southern California meet that go, even as they all remain in the most restrictive "purple tier" of the state's COVID economic reopening roadmap.
Schools in counties that are in the less-restrictive 'red' tier, would be required to open all elementary grades and at least one middle or high school grade to qualify for funds allotted through the proposed legislative incentive package announced on Monday.
In Los Angeles, District Superintendent Austin Beutner has set a target date of April 9 for reopening elementary schools, however, the teachers' union has so far not agreed to that date.
The union says they want all teachers and school staff vaccinated before schools return to in-person instruction and that campuses should not reopen until Los Angeles County moves out of the 'purple' tier. Union officials point to the fact that many neighborhoods that LAUSD serves are considered lower-income and have rates three times as high as the rest of the county's average.
Beutner has previously supported the union's call for vaccinating staff and teachers in the past.
On Monday, teachers and other school staff became eligible to get their COVID vaccine. At SoFi stadium in Inglewood, the LAUSD has set up a vaccination site dedicated to education workers. But even with the expanded access and dedicated site, there won't be enough doses delivered in time to vaccinate all elementary school teachers in time to meet the proposed April 9 reopening dates.
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