FAQ on TA for Safe Return-Updated

 

 

GENERAL ISSUES

Is there paid time to prep for a physical return?

UTLA members scheduled to work in person can voluntarily schedule up to 15 hours of on-site prep time, outside of the regular work day, paid at your hourly rate. That preparation time can be scheduled with your principal. With the exception of a 30-minute remote check-in with students, the first day onsite is reserved for educator preparation, planning, and training on safety protocols.

 

Why is ratification of the agreement necessary?

There has never been a time when our unity and collective voice were more important, making ratification of this tentative agreement essential. The UTLA leadership has made it explicitly clear to our members and LAUSD that a hybrid return bargaining agreement will be subject to a ratification vote by the UTLA membership. A tentative agreement was reached between UTLA and LAUSD on Tuesday, March 9, requiring both parties to move forward with their ratification process. The LAUSD Board of Education ratified the agreement on March 11 and the UTLA membership will vote on ratification from March 18-21.

 

If the Board of Education ratified the agreement, doesn’t that make UTLA ratification unnecessary?

No. The Board of Education ratified the tentative bargaining agreement as part of the collective bargaining process, with full understanding that UTLA must also ratify the tentative agreement for it to go into effect. This does not have the same effect as the Board approving a new district policy. Furthermore, even if they did adopt the provisions of the tentative agreement as district policy without UTLA ratification, the Board of Education would be able to unilaterally change the adopted policy at their discretion.

 

What happens if the UTLA-LAUSD tentative agreement is not ratified?

If UTLA does not ratify the tentative agreement, the leadership will honor the will of the voters and make a demand to renegotiate the agreement. While the district would eventually have to return to the table, LAUSD would be permitted by state law to physically reopen schools before or whether a new agreement is reached as long they follow county and state health guidelines. LAUSD would not be required to follow the provisions of the tentative agreement because it has no effect unless it is ratified by both sides.

 

Are we okay with county and state health guidelines?

County and state health guidelines for physically reopening schools are less protective of employees and students than the health & safety provisions in the UTLA-LAUSD tentative agreement. Examples of this include, but are not limited to, no requirement that employees have access to full vaccination before a physical return to work, no requirement for regular COVID testing of staff and students, no requirement to maintain 6 feet of physical distancing, and no requirement to limit student movement. Additionally, county and state guidelines have been consistently weakened in response to political pressure, and are likely to be further weakened in the future. 

 

How will Special Education, Designated Instructional Services, Health and Human Services, and VAPA Itinerant services be provided?

UTLA and LAUSD are bargaining now over how to safely provide Special Education services, Designated Instructional Services, Health and Human Services, and VAPA Itinerant services to students in the hybrid schedules. Designated services providers representing psychologists, speech and language specialists, APE, OT/PT, DHH, Visually impaired, Infant Special Education programs, and Carlson Hospital educators have come to the table to discuss how to deliver their unique services. UTLA members will vote on the sideletter agreements that are negotiated.

 

The bargaining is happening in this order because we had to focus first on the essential health and safety conditions needed for schools to physically reopen and to bargain the structural day because how UTLA members provide special education, DIS, HHS, and VAPA itinerant services will have to be built around that structural day. Reaching a tentative agreement allows LAUSD to survey parents, including parents of special education children, on their choice for hybrid or remote learning. That information will be critical in planning for all classrooms and services.

 

What about educators who need childcare for our own children?

LAUSD has announced that it will offer childcare support for employees as we move toward a physical return to classrooms. The program provides full-time employees with a $500-per-month subsidy for each child age 5 and younger who is enrolled in a childcare program. It will be available for the rest of this semester and for employees who work as part of summer school through July 31. 

While the program does not address the range of childcare issues faced by educators, this is a righteous win for the many UTLA members who uplifted this issue. 

As millions of parents — including frontline workers in hospitals, grocery stores, food processing plants, sanitation, transportation, and other professions — have been forced to leave home for work and scramble to find childcare throughout the pandemic, it’s become more clear than ever that we as a society must do more to provide affordable childcare options for all families.

 

 

Will my students be changed? How soon will I know my schedule?

The elementary, secondary, and early education schedules attempt to keep teachers with their students, and minimize changes. Schedules will be determined by the educator survey and the parent survey, which will provide needed information to determine which students will return to school, and those students who will remain virtual.

 

How long does the agreement last?

The agreement lasts through the end of the 2020-21 school year.

 

When will members be voting on the agreement?

UTLA members will vote online March 18 to 21. The vote will be run by the same firm that conducted our recent safety vote.

 

If all my students stay virtual, can I stay virtual with them?

In elementary, there is the possibility of two virtual cohorts; however, teachers will be expected to teach from their classroom unless they have a verified medical reason to stay remote. In secondary you would be at the school site but stay in your Advisory class for an in-person class and teach all other classes remotely.

 

If I stay remote, will I lose my students who choose to do hybrid?

If you have a medical or other reason to teach remotely, and your students choose hybrid, there will probably be reorganization of those students.

 

What if a parent changes their mind and wants virtual or in-person instruction?

Families will be able to switch the instructional models their students are participating in every 2 weeks, by contacting their school. Any resulting changes in the number of in-person students will still have to meet the COVID testing and physical distancing requirements in the agreement.

 

There has been some talk of tents being used for teaching. Will this happen?

The district is looking at the possibility of using tents outdoors for the exceptional cases of large class sizes, such as the 63 non-PHABAO schools, where there may be larger class sizes than is safe to socially distance in the classroom.

 

Will there be Beyond the Bell child care services?

Yes, Beyond the Bell will be operating from 8 am to 4 pm, for TK through 5th or 6th grade. The district is working on middle school for later in the return process. Educators who have children at LAUSD schools can opt for them to go to school and do Beyond the Bell when they’re not physically in class. But if educators have children who aren't attending LAUSD, there is no childcare provided, due to cohorting and other issues.

 

Is the school year extension off the table?

A 10-day extension for next school year is still a possibility, but has to be bargained and would have to be ratified by our members.

 

What happens if UTLA members don't approve the agreement?

The district has the right to open the school campuses and require us to return. This agreement is the gold standard for health and safety and gives us legally binding safety conditions that we can enforce as opposed to just leaving it up to the district. Absent an agreement, the district will be able to act unilaterally on most conditions of a return. 

 

We all know that hybrid teaching is going to be very difficult and that many educators have compelling reasons to teach remotely through the end of the school year, but the fact is that LAUSD is going to open schools, and they are going to require educators to work in those schools. That can happen with this agreement on concrete safety conditions that we can enforce, or it can happen without the agreement, with us leaving it all up to the district.  

 

 

HEALTH & SAFETY

How do I request an accommodations for health risks from COVID?

LAUSD is finalizing the process for members to request reasonable accommodations for high-risk health factors that would include an exemption from physically returning to schools. Members seeking accommodations will need to provide written verification from a doctor to their principal and request a remote assignment. If the principal is unable to provide a remote assignment, the member will need to contact the LAUSD Risk Management office to initiate a more formal process at the district level. The district is expected to provide all employees with a guidance document addressing this process more thoroughly over the next few days.

 

What if I am not fully vaccinated by the time my site physically reopens?

Our agreement with LAUSD requires that educators be given access to full vaccination, along with the necessary time to achieve immunity, prior to being required to provide in-person service. Based on the district reopening schedule, it is clear that some members will be unable to achieve this prior to the physical reopening of their school. LAUSD has acknowledged this reality and will provide in-person substitute support until the member in that situation has completed the process. However, the time provided will be limited and based on an expectation that the member has made and will make every effort to complete the process as quickly as possible. Members in this situation should maintain and be ready to provide documentation (emails, screenshots, etc.) that reflects this effort. Finally, we encourage any member in this situation to immediately reach out to your principal or direct supervisor in writing with either a likely timeline for completion or a request for assistance.

 

Will the 6 feet of social distancing in the agreement change now that the CDC is looking at a study that says 3 feet is sufficient distance in schools?

No. The agreement prevents the dangerous erosion of safety standards that we have seen over the course of this pandemic. If members ratify the agreement, the safety measures are locked in, and nothing the CDC or any other body does can weaken the protocols.

 

Where will students go before class begins?

There are a lot of factors determining this, including available entrances, times for health screenings, and how many support staff are available. Schools will use the first day back to better understand what this will look like, and staff meetings will be used to discuss best practices over the next few weeks. Staggered entrances will help avoid large groupings.

 

Is COVID testing part of our daily paid hours or something expected to be done outside of the work day?

Members will be afforded up to two hours for COVID testing during the workday without loss of pay.

 

 Can my principal ask me to fill out the district’s vaccine survey?

Yes. As part of a safe return, we demanded vaccine access for all educators. This survey is not a violation of privacy. The district has the right to ask if you have been vaccinated, if you are trying to get vaccinated, or if you do not plan to get vaccinated. It is reasonable that they would need to know this information.

 

What if the county changes the definition of Red Tier or moves back into Purple after we return?

LAUSD will be obligated to negotiate with UTLA on the impact of any change in criteria for risk level tier or any change to the Los Angeles County risk level tier after being in the Red Tier.

 

Has ventilation been upgraded in all schools, even some of our older campuses?

In-person teaching can only take place in rooms with HVAC systems with a MERV 13 rating or better. Fans will be running 24 hours a day in classrooms.

 

Will we physically return before employees get the second vaccination?

No, the agreement requires that educators be given access to vaccination with time for both shots and the necessary time for full efficacy.

 

Is LAUSD requiring employee vaccinations right now?

Not at this time, but the district has notified UTLA of their intent to require COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment for all employees. Those with medically verified health risks or “sincerely” held religious beliefs would be able to request accommodations.

 

Is there sick leave available to employees who contract COVID?

UTLA members required to quarantine by the district will be paid without having to use contractual or statutory leave time.

 

What if I get ill from the COVID vaccine?

UTLA members receive up to three days of paid leave if you become ill as a result of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. You will not be required to use contractual or statutory leave for this purpose.

 

Am I required to return if I am at high risk from COVID?

The district must make every effort to provide reasonable accommodations for members who provide a physician’s note determining that they are in a high-risk category related to COVID-19. Teachers who remain remote for health reasons will continue to provide instruction virtually and will be supported with an in-person substitute.

 

What if I am pregnant and uncomfortable about going back in?

If you have documentation from a physician asserting a health risk, then the district will make every effort to provide reasonable accommodations.

 

What if a student or employee involved in in-person instruction tests positive for COVID?

The district must notify staff within a day and must institute contact tracing protocols. Anyone required to quarantine will do so on paid time (not out of your sick leave).

 

Do I have to buy my own PPE? Hand sanitizer?

No, the district must provide masks as well as hand sanitizer in every classroom and elsewhere throughout the school.

 

What if my classroom is not being cleaned and disinfected every day?

Notify your principal and your chapter chair. Let your chapter chair know if the principal does not resolve it.

 

What happens if students or other staff are not following safety protocols at my school?

Every school will have a COVID-19 Compliance Task Force. The task force will address health and safety compliance issues at the school and address deficiencies in a timely manner. Compliance and enforcement of the sideletter's provisions will be key to maintaining safe schools, so it will be essential that every school have a Chapter Action Team (CAT) and be ready to organize for safety.

 

Will the nurse be available at the school, along with counselors and therapists?

Nurses will return to their school assignments and support the health and safety of the school community.  Counselors and therapists will continue with their caseloads and support the classroom teacher with social-emotional learning. Negotiations are in process for Health and Human Service Professionals and Itinerants, as well as Special Education and Designated Services.

 

Once we return, will we be holding faculty and other group meetings in person?

All required meetings for staff will be conducted virtually.

 

What about fire drills and emergency procedures?

This is being worked out and will be covered on the first day of a physical return.

 

SPECIAL EDUCATION

How will Special Education services be provided?

Our members with self-contained classes will follow the schedule of their respective sites. For more specialized campuses, as well as for DIS and RST, we will get more clarity on schedule guidance, but we will advocate for teacher flexibility and professional discretion.

 

Bargaining continues on many critical Special Education issues, and members have expressed questions about why these issues were not reflected in the new sideletter. With LA County fast approaching the Red Tier, the priority in bargaining pivoted to reaching an agreement that would win our three safety demands (imperative to a healthy and safe return for all LAUSD schools) and establish a broad foundation of hybrid schedules and models. Reaching a tentative agreement allows LAUSD to survey parents, including parents of special education children, on their choice for hybrid or remote learning. That information will be critical in planning for all classrooms and services, including DIS and RST.

Will UTLA members vote on any subsequent agreements on Special Education?

Yes, UTLA members will vote on the agreements that are negotiated.

 

Will there be additional protections and protocols for Special Education services?

Our health and safety language in the sideletter is already strong, but we understand that our special education teachers have legitimate and specific concerns, and we are continuing to bargain for more language on PPE and guidance around physical distancing.

 

How is Special Education represented on the UTLA Bargaining Team?

Our Bargaining Team has special education teachers who regularly advocate for the unique needs of our special education community, and we frequently bring additional special education teachers into bargaining sessions. These voices have been instrumental on a number of issues, including pushing off the simultaneous teaching originally proposed. We continue to meet with special education members and compile concerns that we highlight and fight for at the bargaining table.

 

ELEMENTARY HYBRID INSTRUCTION

What is the proposed schedule for students who stay with online learning?

Classes for all students — whether virtual or in person — will follow the times in the agreement (see agreement for specifics for each grade level).

 

What happens if the number of students who opt to come in physically exceeds the class cap?

School sites may look into larger spaces to hold bigger classes (e.g., the auditorium) or it is possible another teacher may absorb additional students into their class. The goal is to keep students with their teachers if space permits.

 

Will Cohort A and B be in-person, virtual or both?

This will be determined by the parent survey and available staffing. It could be 2 in-person cohorts, 2 remote learning cohorts, or 1 of each.

 

What if the number of my students who want to attend in-person class exceeds the capacity of the two cohorts?

There is the possibility that a reorganization of classes might be needed. The district’s family and staff surveys are going to be very important to this process.

 

Will students be keeping the same teacher?

The schedules make it a priority that students continue without changing teachers or courses. There may be exceptions where this is not possible, but this has been the priority concern among parents and educators. The district’s family and staff surveys are going to be very important to this process.

 

What if I want to Zoom and teach in-person at the same time?

This agreement does not have the option of simultaneous teaching.

 

SECONDARY HYBRID INSTRUCTION

What were the key priorities in developing the secondary hybrid schedule?

In bargaining it was very important to land on a secondary hybrid schedule that did NOT include:

  • Simultaneous teaching
  • Teachers roving from classroom to classroom
  • Redoing the Master Schedule and disrupting student learning

These were the top priorities for members, and we fought for a deal that did not include these elements. Both the district and UTLA recognize that it would not be safe for secondary students, who transmit the virus like adults do, to switch classes as they normally do. This left one possibility: continuing academic classes online, but keeping the in-person students in their Advisory groupings so that students can benefit from interaction with peers and social-emotional supports.

 

If a teacher's advisory class fully opts to stay remote, will that teacher still need to report to campus to teach?

Yes, even if all Advisory students opt to remain fully on Zoom, educators will report to their classrooms and teach their own classes remotely from there.

 

Will my students be changed?  How soon will I know my schedule?

The elementary, secondary, and early education schedules attempt to keep teachers with their students, and minimize changes.  Schedules will be determined by the parent survey, and the educator survey that will provide needed information to determine which students will return to school, and those students who will remain virtual.

 

Will the nurse be available at the school, along with counselors and therapists?

Nurses will return to their school assignments and support the health and safety of the school community.  Counselors and therapists will continue with their caseloads and support the classroom teacher with social-emotional learning.

Negotiations are in process for Health and Human Service Professionals and Itinerants, as well as Special Education and Designated Services.

 

What classes will secondary teachers be teaching live?

Advisory only. All other classes will be conducted via Zoom. This means that the students in your physical classroom will have Advisory live with you, but will be zooming to various other classes for each academic period. Meanwhile, you will be zooming to your virtual classes at the same time. The district has noise-cancelling headphones available.

 

This is far from a perfect setup, but it will provide students with social-emotional support and the chance to engage with their peers, and it is preferable to disrupting students’ class assignments so late in the school year.

 

How do I as an Advisory teacher prioritize helping students with tech issues and focusing on my lesson that I am teaching via Zoom?

This will be the most challenging aspect of the schedule. We have built in more time between Zoom classes (10 minutes) to allow for bathroom and stretching breaks. The district plans to assign one substitute teacher for every 3 Advisory classrooms, and they can help with some issues. However, we know that there will still be disruptions and we encourage Advisory teachers to discuss this with their in-person students during Advisory time, so that the students understand that they will have to be patient.

 

What about secondary UTLA members who don't have Advisory?

Members without Advisory may be asked to provide support to members teaching Advisory; however, these members without Advisory must have time to complete their other work duties and must be allowed a 30-minute duty-free lunch and a 15-minute break during the work day.

 

How will Physical Education be taught?

PE teachers will continue with the same Advisory students they have had during distance learning. All Advisory teachers may take their students out for fresh air and stretching regardless of whether they teach PE or not. PE teachers will have about 15 students per group and they will be continuing to Zoom for all periods.

 

 

EEC HYBRID INSTRUCTION

What is the size of student cohorts for Early Ed Centers?

Cohorts will have a maximum of 12 students based on parent survey responses.

 

How will it work if I need to stay remote?

Teachers who remain remote for health reasons will provide daily synchronous instruction online and will be supported with their Early Education Center aides.

 

Will I need to clean my own classroom?

The agreement explicitly states that EEC teachers shall not be asked to clean classrooms, classroom furniture, or restrooms.

 

SUBSTITUTES

How will the latest district “statement of availability” survey for substitutes be used?

This survey is an important piece of the planning process for a return to in-person instruction, and we strongly encourage all substitutes to respond. As substitutes have been throughout the pandemic, you are critical to the delivery of instruction and the support of student learning. This process continues our collective success in winning guaranteed work for all willing substitutes since the beginning of the pandemic. The deadline to complete the survey is Wednesday, March 24. Completing the statement of availability survey allows substitutes to be eligible for the one-day-a-month healthcare exception. For questions about the survey, please contact Jorge Amador at jorge.amador@lausd.net.

 

 

Will substitutes be paid if they fall ill or need to quarantine due to COVID-19?

Yes, unit members will be paid and not required to use their contractual or statutory leave time.

 

Will substitutes be entitled to apply for accommodations based on their medical needs?

Yes, the district has committed to make every effort to provide reasonable accommodations.

 

Will substitutes be paid at their hourly rate if they are required to stay longer on campus?

Substitutes will be compensated for any work done outside their regular work hours at their regular rate.

 

Will substitutes continue working in their same assignments?

Substitutes currently working as a “special program substitute” will continue working in a “special program assignment.” The actual assignment will depend on the needs of the school and its instructional program.

 

Will substitutes be asked to travel out of their calling area?

The district has been consistent in acknowledging calling areas and making every effort to use calling areas for assignments. We expect this to continue.

 

Will there still be a need for “day-to-day” substitutes?

Yes, day-to-day substitutes will be necessary and the current protocols in place will continue.

 

Virtual instructors will receive support from in-person subs. What does this specifically look like for elementary and secondary?

Circumstances where teachers stay remote due to health accommodations will require a substitute teacher in person to serve in a supervisory/proctor type of role.

 


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