The Los Angeles Unified School District will have to negotiate with union members before schools can reopen early, said the group representing teachers and staffers at the nation’s second-largest school district.
United Teachers Los Angeles made the comments Tuesday after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that California schools can reopen as soon as late July as COVID-19 hospitalization rates begin to stabilize in the state. Most California schools have been closed since March, forcing teachers and parents to facilitate children’s learning online.
In a statement, UTLA said “there has been no discussion” on an early start to the next school year, adding that the six goals Newsom laid out two weeks ago must be meet before “setting unrealistic timelines.”
Those measures include expanded testing, protection of vulnerable groups, meeting hospitals’ needs, the support of research in developing treatments and a possible vaccine, the implementation of physical distancing guidelines in public and private facilities, and the ability to reinstate restrictions if needed.
In his weekly news conference on Monday, LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner emphasized the need for testing and contact tracing before the district’s 75,000 employees and nearly 700,000 students return to classrooms.
“Will testing be available for all these individuals, and who will pay for it?” Beutner said.
After Newsom’s announcement on Tuesday, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said he thinks it’s possible that schools reopen in the summer with strict safety measures in place. However, he said that the decision will likely be made district-by-district, not through a state mandate.
Garcetti floated the idea of “shifts” in which 50% of students go four days a week, while the other half attend three days a week. He acknowledged that enacting social distancing rules may pose a bigger challenge among younger students.
“I think we’re going to have to get really creative,” the mayor said.
Garcetti also added that at some point, the city may be able to offer testing for people without COVID-19 symptoms, including children.
He vowed to support LAUSD as it plans to reopen.
“The need to educate our children and have them in a safe place so parents can return to work, that’s really important,” the mayor said.
Debbie Koltz, an LAUSD employee who’s also a mother to a high school senior, told KTLA: “It will be good for the kids to get back, but it doesn’t give the teachers much of a break.”