March 5, 2021News
LOS ANGELES — UTLA members have voted overwhelmingly to resist a premature and unsafe physical return to school sites. Over five days of voting March 1 through 5 conducted by Integrity Voting Systems, 24,580 ballots were cast, with 91% Yes ballots (22,480) and 9% No (2,100).
“This vote signals that in these most trying times, our members will not accept a rushed return that would endanger the safety of educators, students, and families,” UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz said.
The vote result means members remain committed to distance learning until the three safety criteria are met:
- LA County is out of the purple tier
- Staff are either fully vaccinated or provided access to full vaccination
- Safety conditions are in place at our schools including PPE, physical distancing, improved ventilation, and daily cleaning
“Last March when educators first closed our classrooms and offices, we didn’t know that a year later we would still be physically separated from the students and communities we love,” Myart-Cruz said. “It has been a painful and difficult year for everyone. As much as educators long to be back to in-person instruction, it must be done safely for the sake of students, staff, and families. That has been our guiding principal from Day 1 of this pandemic.”
With COVID vaccines for school staff rolling out and infection rates decreasing, LA County is making progress toward the necessary conditions for a safe return, but we are not there yet. Some educators are having difficulty securing vaccination appointments, infection rates are still too high in many of the hard-hit communities we serve, and COVID variants could change the trajectory of the virus.
“With this vote, teachers are saying what I am hearing from parents in my community — it’s just not safe to physically return to schools yet,” said LAUSD parent and Reclaim Our Schools LA parent leader Alicia Baltazar. “I want to thank teachers for taking this stand and for all that you have been doing to educate my child during this pandemic.”
The overwhelming solidarity of the vote comes as legislators and Governor Newsom made last-minute changes to AB 86, the school reopening bill, redefining the COVID-19 tiers to try to push districts into returning to in-person instruction at levels that have been considered dangerous for close to a year.
LA continues to be the epicenter of the return-to-school debate, and the pressure on UTLA educators individually and collectively has been intense.
“Teaching in a pandemic is not easy. Standing up for students and our most marginalized communities is not easy. But our members continue to do both of these things, day in and day out because that’s our job,” Myart-Cruz said.
In the wake of the member vote, UTLA will continue parent and community outreach on the safe physical return to schools with a parent townhall on Saturday, March 13. UTLA will share more details next week.