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LA teachers’ union pact demands fall masks, COVID tests

Masks will remain on for students and staff at Los Angeles schools this fall, and coronavirus testing will continue for all, under a tentative agreement announced Thursday between district officials and the teachers’ union.

The mask’s tenure would continue regardless of whether employees or students were vaccinated, with rare potential exceptions for students with disabilities. And coronavirus tests are said to take place at least once every two weeks. This is a possible step back from current practice, which requires testing every week since the gradual reopening of campuses in April.

Daily symptom screening would also be required for students, staff and visitors before entering a campus. This screening usually consisted of a temperature check and a verbal self-affirmation of good health. The district also has an online Daily Pass that allows for the same claim, but people haven’t been forced to use it.

“The agreement maintains necessary COVID-19 protocols that have been shown to protect students, staff, families and the educational community,” United Teachers Los Angeles said in a statement.

The pact addresses what had been a major unknown for the families of 465,000 K-12 students in the nation’s second-largest school system: What would the on-campus experience look like in the fall?

On this issue, district officials had substantial leverage – as on July 1, state law will largely revert to pre-pandemic rules, requiring schools to offer a full-time schedule on campus or risk losing substantial public funding.

When it comes to safety concerns, the union and the LA Unified School District have acted cautiously – and largely stalled – during the pandemic, which resulted in campus closures in March 2020.

Campuses have reopened more slowly than in many neighborhoods and with tighter security measures, some unpopular. Middle and high school students, for example, had to stay online – as they would at home – and stay in a classroom throughout the teaching day. This will no longer be the case from the summer school.

But the precautions have yielded what the district and the union praise as a crucial success: No reported cases of transmission of the virus on campus from student to student or from student to adult.

By the time the campuses opened, all staff had the opportunity to achieve peak immunity to the vaccine, and transmission rates in the community had also plummeted. In addition, few students returned to many schools, which also reduced the risk of illness.

One measure in effect this spring was a rule requiring six feet of distance between desks. This rule has led to smaller classes, about half the usual size, due to space limitations – and a part-time schedule on campus. However, starting in the summer, the separation will be three feet, which is basically the distance between desks in a traditional classroom. What may still not work, however, is the once common practice of bringing desks closer together or grouping students around tables.

The new agreement does not specifically deal with a standard of three feet, six feet or whatever. Instead, he specifies following the “most recent” guidelines from the LA County Department of Public Health, which approved the three-foot standard. And if these guidelines change, “either party can reopen negotiations.”

In a letter sent Thursday to employees, LA Schools Supt. Austin Beutner highlighted another aspect of the deal.

“We will not be moving any teachers to school sites this coming school year,” Beutner wrote. “Teachers will be able to stay in their current schools, and students, school staff and families will all benefit. This continuity in schools will help strengthen a sense of community while providing the best possible academic basis for students. “

The displacement of teachers occurs when the number of enrollments is too low to maintain the current staff. In recent years, district enrollment has declined by around 2% per year, a decline that is expected to continue. On some campuses where enrollment is low, some grades may be mixed into so-called combined classes, but teachers with such an assignment will receive additional compensation.

Hand sanitizer will be everywhere.

In the interim agreement, the district also affirmed its commitment to “regularly” clean all classrooms, toilets and workspaces and to ensure that “all frequently touched surfaces are disinfected daily.” Separately, the Los Angeles Board of Education authorized a 25% increase in child care, although that would still leave child care staff below what the district has set as the industry standard.

Additionally, all campuses would have a COVID-19 Compliance Working Group, which would meet at least twice a month.

The agreement also includes details of the school day for students whose families decide to keep them at home in the fall. Elementary students would have at least three hours of live online instruction every school day. Middle school and high school students would have three 70-minute periods per day. Each period must provide a minimum of 40 minutes of live online instruction. Online programs will not be available on all campuses, but will be delivered centrally in each of the more than 40 “communities of schools”.

The agreement, which must be ratified by union members, would be in effect until June 30, 2022.

“As we close this year, we mourn those we have lost, we reinforce the lessons we have learned and we turn the page on in-person learning communities, five days a week for the 2021-2022 school year. “said the union. President Cecily Myart-Cruz said in a statement, “Unless conditions worsen”.





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