Teachers union calls for LAUSD campuses to remain closed when school starts

According to a poll, 83% of UTLA members said LAUSD schools should not physically reopen Aug. 18
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Leaders for the union representing teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District are calling for campuses to remain closed when the new school year begins Aug. 18.

The board of directors and bargaining team for United Teachers Los Angeles say it's unsafe to bring children back to classrooms as coronavirus infections increase.

Union leaders want the district to continue online classes.

"We all want to physically open schools and be back with our students, but lives hang in the balance," UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz said Thursday in a statement. "Safety has to be the priority. We need to get this right for our communities."

On Friday, more than 18,000 UTLA members responded to an informal poll and 83% agreed with the UTLA board of directors that LAUSD should not physically reopen schools on Aug. 18, according to a news release.

"It is hitting us hard to think we may not be back with our students in the fall," Myart-Cruz said in a news release. "And we know this is hard on our students and their parents, so many of whom have stepped up as our partners in teaching while struggling with the economic fallout of this crisis. But safety must come first, along with a commitment to focus on strengthening distance learning."

According to UTLA, a spike in COVID-19 cases "has changed the calculations for when it is safe to go back to schools." The union also said before the jump in cases, there were "serious issues" with starting the new school year on physical campuses.

The union says state and federal governments have not provided the resources or funding to start the school year safely, and that there isn't enough time for LAUSD to put together "detailed, rigorous plans" to reopen campuses.

UTLA says it is bargaining with LAUSD and has another bargaining session scheduled with the district next week.

RELATED: Academic, mental and physical benefits of in-person school outweigh virus risks, pediatrics group says
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As states grapple with how to safely start the upcoming school year, the American Academy of Pediatrics is pushing for students to be physically present in classrooms rather than continue in remote learning for the sake of their well-being.



President Trump on Thursday tweeted adamantly that schools must be in the fall or they won't receive funding from the federal government.



Mayart-Cruz described the president's desire to reopen schools as an anti-science agenda. Union leadership wanting to focus on online classes for the fall say the state and federal governments have not provided additional resources or the funds needed for increased health and safety measures.

She said that the union is ready to stand its ground if the government does hold back funding.

"Someone asked me 'what if they demand, throw down the gauntlet, and say you must come back'... then we're going to have a fight on our hands," added Mayart-Cruz.

The union also released a research paper Thursday on conditions that must be met before staff and students can safely return, "Same Storm but Different Boats: The Safe and Equitable Conditions for Starting LAUSD in 2020-21.''

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Health officials suggested that all school districts in Los Angeles County should have a "Plan B" for around reopening this fall if there is a spike in community transmission amid the coronavirus pandemic.



Earlier this week, L.A. County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer warned school district leaders to prepare for the possibility that students will need to continue remote learning when the school year begins on Aug. 18.

L.A. school officials have yet to make a decision on reopening campuses.

City News Service contributed to this report.
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