LAUSD, Teachers Union Reach Tentative Deal On Distance Learning; Parent Groups Raise Concerns


LOS ANGELES (CBLA) – After weeks of negotiations, the second largest school district in the nation and its teachers reached a tentative deal on how to proceed with distance learning amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A tentative agreement between LAUSD and the teachers agreement would provide students with three to four hours of live instruction daily, but some parents are raising concerns. (CBSLA)

The Los Angeles Unified School District and the United Teachers Los Angeles bargaining team reached the agreement late Sunday night after a marathon weekend negotiation session, UTLA reported on social media.

In the proposed deal, students will virtually attend school from 9 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. and will have three to four hours of live interaction with their teachers daily in groups and independently. LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner said the proposal allows for more structures and standards, while also increasing interaction between students and teachers. He also said more support would be offered in person and online.

The deal is pending a vote from the approximately 30,000 UTLA teachers, as well as the LAUSD Board of Education.

A parents group issued a statement late Monday afternoon about the proposal, saying that it falls short of the district’s responsibility to educate all students.

“It raises significant concerns about the well-being of students and is an insufficient improvement over the failed remote learning environment too many families experienced last spring,” a statement by a coalition of parents from Innovate Public Schools and Parent Revolution said. “If yet another semester of learning is lost, students will never get the opportunity back and the harm will be felt for lifetimes, especially for students in communities already underserved by our public school system.”

Last week, UTLA said it rejected a proposal from LAUSD to have its teachers instruct students virtually from empty classrooms when the school year resumes the week of Aug. 17. It’s unclear how that played into the new agreement.

On Monday, hundreds of LAUSD teachers took part in a National Day of Resistance which called for racial justice in U.S. public school systems. Demonstrations were held nationwide demanding that students only physically return to classrooms when the science and data deem it safe.

In a briefing Monday morning, Beutner did not directly address the tentative deal. However, he again reiterated that the number of coronavirus cases in L.A. County and the testing rate will determine when students can return to campuses. L.A. County currently has a positivity rate of 8.3%.

Beutner noted that when students do finally return to class, it would be under a hybrid model.

“There’ll be fewer students at a school at any one time, so students will need to be one what’s referred to as a hybrid schedule which combines in-school and at-home online instruction…Every day for elementary school students, and two or three days a week for secondary school students.”

“When LAUSD school campuses closed in March, educators, parents and students had to adapt to an emergency moment, and over just a few days. This time, it was important to think through the challenges and to incorporate feedback from that experience — using information from a parent and member survey and feedback from members — which is reflected in this final agreement,” said UTLA Bargaining Co-Chair Arlene Inouye in response to the deal.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced July 17 that public and private schools in all California counties on the state’s coronavirus monitoring list – which includes Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura – will start the fall semester with distance learning only due to the surge in coronavirus cases.

As of Monday, 38 counties are on the state’s watchlist due to their number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

Newsom says counties must be off the state’s monitoring list for 14 consecutive days before public and private schools can physically reopen.

Prior to Newsom’s announcement, several school districts in Southern California had already reported they would start out the year remotely, including LAUSD, San Diego, Pasadena, Glendale, Long Beach, Santa Ana, and most school districts in Ventura County.

LAUSD — the second largest district in the nation — serves more than 600,000 students at more than 1,000 schools. It employs about 75,000 people.