LAUSD parents plan Zoom blackout to protest school closures as other school districts open

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The Los Angeles County Department of Health has given the LA Unified School District the green light to resume in-person classes.

But LAUSD, the largest school district in California, has no plans to resume on-campus instruction in the immediate future.

"Scientists have said, experts have said, doctors have said, it's time to open schools. I read today Pasadena has opened schools, Calabasas has opened their schools, many cities are opening their schools. Why is LA County lagging?" said LAUSD parent Betty Gabbaie.

The mother of three school-age children is part of the Facebook group United Parents Los Angeles which is calling for schools to reopen.

"I've had teachers message me saying they are ready, they want to go back," said Gabbaie.

But the school district says it still needs its staff and teachers to be vaccinated before it can move forward with having students return to in-person lessons. LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner said he wants to focus on vaccines in communities that are most impacted by the coronavirus.

"Why aren't we vaccinating them today. It would take less than 1% of the doses coming to the state of California over the next two weeks to reopen all of our elementary school classes," said Beutner.

Parent frustration is growing over what they see as another delay tactic by the school district as it struggles to come to an agreement with the United Teachers Los Angeles union. The teachers union is opposed to reopening schools out of concern for staff and student health and safety.

In a statement released Tuesday, UTLA said reopening schools in low-income communities where transmission of the virus continues to be widespread would "result in a yo-yo effect of closures, upending the very educational stability that our students and communities deserve."

LAUSD received $2 billion in CARES Act funding which it has used to revamp its schools' ventilation systems, create a plan for testing students and staff, install social distancing measures and acquire personal protective equipment for staff and students.

"The district is very clearly legally able to tell (UTLA) guess what, we're opening next week. Here are the precautions we have taken," said Dr. Houman Hemmati. "But they are afraid of standing up to the unions because they are afraid of the backlash."

Hemmati's preschool-age daughter will attend Santa Monica Unified School District in the fall, but he is worried the teachers union for his district will follow UTLA's lead. He, like other parents, wants schools to reopen under the current safety measures in place. He said while parents appreciate the teachers' efforts to teach virtually, it's not working.

"The parent have started to question the union's motives here and say you know what regardless of what you are trying to do the ultimate outcome is you are hurting our kids. You're even hurting the teachers who want to come back," he said.

On Monday, the Facebook group United Parents Los Angeles is calling for a Zoom blackout to demand the school district reopen schools. In addition to the virtual protest parents say they will also walk to their children's school to protest in person.
Copyright © 2021 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.