Troubling conditions at fire impacted schools

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Saddleridge Fire forces closure of schools across the Valley

Fire fallout: Protest on Tuesday against LAUSD's lack of leadership

Parents and teachers will rally outside Van Gogh Elementary on Granada Hills on Tuesday afternoon to protest LAUSD's lack of leadership during the Saddleridge fire.

After the district sent a memo claiming that all sites had been deep-cleaned and were safe, Van Gogh staff and students arrived Monday morning to find ash on classroom floors, black particles on desks, and the oppressive smell of smoke in every building. Special education teacher Lisa Bennett was one of several educators who moved classes outside to protect themselves and their students from stinging eyes and burning lungs. Many other schools close to the fire zone reported similar stories today.

"This has been a real crisis of leadership," Bennett says. "Someone should have made an executive decision before doors opened and said we need to shut this down, end of story. It's our health we're talking about and the health of our students and their young lungs. It's time LAUSD steps up and puts protocols in place so this never happens again."

The community is demanding that LAUSD: 
•    Provide leadership in moments of crisis
•    Close impacted schools until they are clean and safe
•    Bring stakeholders together to develop a sustainable protocol for natural disasters

Send a Message to LAUSD: Safe Schools Now

If you are at a nearby school, join us at Van Gogh tomorrow after school! 

Tuesday, October 15
Van Gogh Charter Elementary
17160 Van Gogh St, Granada Hills, CA 91344



Troubling conditions at fire impacted schools

From numerous member reports and UTLA officer visits to schools on the front lines of the fire, it's clear that some campuses should not have opened this morning. We are outraged that LAUSD did not follow through on what they said they were going to do and deep-clean these campuses and make them safe for staff and students. Interiors are still filled with ash. Counters have not been wiped down, and carpets are unvacummed. Teachers and students are complaining of breathing problems and burning eyes, and some sites do not have enough air masks to go around.

LAUSD claimed in a message to parents last night that schools would be operating normally, but at some sites little instruction is going on. At one school, kids are being shuttled from classroom to classroom as a cleaning crew finishes its work. Many parents, concerned about safety, are picking their children up from school in the middle of the day.

We are in constant contact with LAUSD to get these critical issues addressed immediately. There is a troubling disconnect between LAUSD leadership and the situation on the ground that must be addressed, or bad decisions will continue to be made.

Please email issues and concerns to our point officer, Alex Orozco, at

—The UTLA Officers
Alex C-P, Cecily, Juan, Gloria, Daniel, Alex O, Arlene

RESOURCE: For those directly affected by the fires, the CTA Disaster Relief Fund provides resources for members who suffer significant losses due to a natural disaster.

Statement from UTLA President - Alex Caputo-Pearl  - 10.11.2019  1:30PM


We reached out to district personnel starting at 5am to get them to close schools. That they didn’t, under these fire and smoke conditions, is shameful. We had many instances of two classes of students packed into one smoky classroom that couldn’t use the air conditioning — because many educators couldn’t make it to school because of road closures. After that kind of chaotic and unhealthy day, we have the district requiring some schools’ entire staffs to stay after the students are dismissed — for no reason. This is appalling. Many other districts, charters, and private schools closed. That the district didn’t reflects a lack of understanding of schools, a disregard for student and employee health, and a willingness to confuse parents. The district needed real leadership today — and we didn’t get it. Once again, educators, parents, and students will need to lead. We will get to the bottom of the district’s shameful inaction.


Update on school closures - 10.11.2019  12:30PM

We are hearing that LAUSD is requiring staff to stay on campus, despite students being let go for a minimum day. While we understand that some administrators need to be on-site for the children who were not able to be picked up, it’s unclear why all staff must stay the full day in this stressful situation with potential air quality and other safety issues.

We continue to press LAUSD to close all schools in the fire zone as soon as possible, and we're looking into why the district was so out of step with other school districts and colleges in the area by dragging their feet in response to our calls for a complete shut-down of all Valley campuses.

—The UTLA Officers
Alex C-P, Cecily, Juan, Gloria, Daniel, Alex O, Arlene



From the Field


ULTA Treasurer Alex Orozco visits Beckford Elementary School in Northridge where the school remains open, despite dangers due to the Saddleridge fire and poor air quality. #SaddleRidgefire #SafetyFirst #UTLAStrong

Resources for members

CTA Disaster Relief Fund

The CTA Disaster Relief Fund is a separate, special fund for members of CTA through voluntary contributions from CTA members, and through CTA fundraising drives throughout the year. The fund, administered by CTA Member Benefits Department, is endowed to provide financial assistance to CTA members who have experienced significant losses due to natural or other disasters in California.


  • Provides financial assistance to CTA members who suffer significant losses due to natural and other disasters in California
  • Funded by voluntary contributions from CTA members, and through CTA fundraising drives throughout the year
  • Administrative services provided by CTA Member Benefits Department







Since 5 AM, UTLA officers have been urging LAUSD to close ALL schools in the Valley — more than 200 schools — due to the Saddleridge fire, which has burned through 4,700 acres and destroyed 25 homes, causing freeways to close and more than 100,000 mandatory evacuations in the San Fernando Valley area. 
By not issuing immediate closures, it has added more confusion and chaos for educators, parents and students when they should be focused on their own safety. We are hearing LAUSD officials are implementing minimum days in northeast and northwest schools. This is not enough.
“Due to the nature of this fast-moving fire and the safety and health risks to these communities, LAUSD should have closed all valley schools by 6 AM,” said UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl. 
We are disappointed to learn that Ventura County schools have been closed and that private schools, charter schools and colleges surrounding LAUSD schools have all been appropriately closed. UTLA officers will stay in close touch with our members, district officials, and other relevant agencies, and will post updates whenever necessary. LAUSD is keeping an updated list here. Please pay close attention to the news, as situations can change quickly.

—The UTLA Officers
Alex C-P, Cecily, Juan, Gloria, Daniel, Alex O, Arlene


Air quality across the San Fernando Valley and as far southwest as Malibu is "hazardous". Stay safe. 

For Up to date Air quality:

Air quality