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LA teachers’ union calls for student mandate for COVID vaccine

Los Angeles teachers’ union calls for mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for all eligible students and stricter quarantine rules while raising some objections to a new district mandate for online education when students are in quarantine.

United Teachers Los Angeles’ demand, in a proposal submitted to the negotiating table, calls on students “to obtain a full vaccination no later than 12 weeks after the anniversary in which they become eligible,” subject to medical exemptions and religious services provided by the state. and federal law.

The union is also calling for entire classes of young students to be quarantined when someone in that class – staff or student – tests positive for coronavirus infection.

The union’s proposals were presented in a document called “Counter-proposal # 2,” which is dated August 26 and was provided to The Times. There is no indication that the district has accepted either proposal, which would further solidify LA Unified’s coronavirus rules as among the strictest in the country.

The country’s second-largest school district already operates the county’s most ambitious coronavirus testing operation, with mandatory weekly testing of everyone on campus and mask warrants inside and outside.

The district’s online education plan will have the most immediate effect on students – thousands of people remain at home in isolation or quarantine, although the number of infections has generally declined in week two school.

Many of these students had received limited instruction during the first two weeks of school, which began on August 16. The district’s announcement is expected to resolve much of the confusion and uncertainty surrounding teaching during quarantines.

“Students and families need clear expectations and support for learning at home when asked to self-isolate or self-quarantine,” LA Unified Interim Supt. Megan Reilly said in a statement. “This plan serves as an interim guide for educators and to support students during this difficult and unique time.”

The new policy represents a partial return to Zoom-based classes from the past two school years, which school systems hoped to drop as the coronavirus pandemic subsided. But the rise of the Delta variant and safety protocols have prompted schools in Los Angeles – and across the county – to send thousands of students home.

During the first week of school at LA Unified, approximately 6,500 students missed one or more days of class because they had tested positive for the virus or were in close contact with someone who l ‘did. This corresponds to 1 in 70 students. About 1,000 district employees missed at least one day of work this first week for the same reasons. Only one school, Grant Elementary in Hollywood, has had a confirmed outbreak – with three or more linked cases involving transmission of the infection on campus.

Data for the second week shows some improvement. Although 4,000 students were in quarantine for one or more days, compared to 3,500, the number of student infections fell from 2,000 in the first week to 1,500 in the second. Infections among staff have increased from 200 to 130. Staff quarantines have increased from 500 to 190. Infection rates for students and staff have also declined.

With quarantines spreading rapidly across the vast school system, some schools responded immediately by holding Zoom sessions or simulcasting, but then backed down – fearing potentially violating state rules or union agreements. Other schools have done the exact opposite, first refusing to offer live online classes and then reversing the course.

At last week’s Education Council meeting, officials said schools could offer online education with the teacher’s consent. There were still concerns about losing funds due to the violation of state rules, which eliminated both distance learning and “blended learning” options from the previous year.

Last year, students had the option of choosing an online-only schedule that closely matched a traditional school day. Other families might choose a schedule that divides the school week between home and school – to allow for smaller classes and more distance between students.

For the current school year, the state has restricted districts to offering some form of independent study to parents who are unwilling to send their children back to campus. This option includes live online classes, but is a separate program from the school classes where a student would otherwise be enrolled.

Monday’s district action makes online outreach mandatory, regardless of the financial implications.

Under the new guidelines, teaching will switch to Zoom when an entire class and teacher are isolated due to infection or quarantine due to exposure to infection. When some students are in class and others at home, the teacher should provide simulcasting. If the teacher is the one at home in quarantine – but not sick – the teacher will provide live instruction online and a replacement will manage the students on campus.

The August 26 union proposal includes the main features of the plan just announced by the district for online education, appearing to signal union assent with general intent. But union leaders called the district’s announcement “bad faith bargaining” in a statement Monday night.

The union said Reilly erred in telling principals “to unilaterally implement the District’s Continuity of Learning proposal – without having reached a bargaining agreement as required by law and without being approved by parents and educators. UTLA will file an unfair labor practice charge with the Public Employment Relations Board.

The union said it wanted more flexibility in education options.

Details of the union demands were posted earlier Monday on Instagram by UTLA Uncensored.

At least one other California school system requires students to be vaccinated: Culver City Unified recently announced the policy, pending appropriate regulatory approval.

On Monday, Reilly also pushed for more eligible students to be vaccinated during visits to three school-based vaccination clinics.