October 29, 2020Statement
Given LA County's rising COVID-19 infections, we believe the earliest possible date for a safe and academically sound physical return to schools is the beginning of the second semester, January 2021. We are gratified that yesterday LAUSD School Board President Richard Vladovic and School Board Vice President Jackie Goldberg expressed support for not reopening until January 2021at the earliest. They cited both safety concerns and the logistical difficulty of switching from online learning so close to the end of the fall semester.
We must provide stability over reopening too soon and having to close again because of infections. As of today, LA County remains in the purple tier — the state’s highest-risk tier characterized by "widespread” disease.
External pressure to reopen schools is increasing even though the metrics don’t support it and the state and federal government have not given school districts the resources to do it safely. We recognize the almost unparalleled challenges of physically reopening schools in the second-largest school district in the country, serving more than 600,000 students in communities of color disproportionally devastated by COVID. The primary driver in reopening schools for UTLA continues to be safety — not misguided outside political pressure.
"There are no perfect choices during this awful pandemic, but we know that opening campuses during a widespread and substantial level of COVID-19 risk in the community creates greater risk for our schools," UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz says. "We can’t let our guard down with this virus. It’s true that children get the virus less — but most of the children who have died of COVID have been Black and Latino. When people say 'reopen schools no matter what,' whose children are they willing to sacrifice?"
On-site services are under way for some of our most in-need students, following UTLA and LAUSD's agreement last month on tutoring and one-on-one assessments for struggling learners and special education students. We are hoping to reach an agreement soon on providing Designated Instruction and Services (DIS).
Bargaining on the safe reopening of schools has started, but, again, a physical return is not imminent and is very unlikely to happen any earlier than the second semester. We are focusing on how to implement consistent and uniform safety protocols at all schools, including a comprehensive COVID-19 testing and tracing program and effective hybrid models for daily in-person instruction, accessible to all students.