In downtown L.A. on Saturday, educators, parents and students gathered to voice their concerns by participating in a car caravan protest and rally. They said they were worried about reopening schools for in-person instruction before it is safe to do so.
The group Reclaim Our Schools L.A. and the union United Teachers Los Angeles organized the Saturday morning demonstration.
Teachers said to go back to campuses would put their student's families at risk in communities already heavily impacted by the virus.
"There are families who live in one, two-bedroom apartments and there are at least five to six people there. It's extremely dangerous for us to potentially expose them," said Beth Clark, a 2nd grade teacher.
UTLA said its members will vote on whether they should refuse to report to work if the school district reopens its campuses too soon. The union said it wants to see L.A. County move out of the state's purple tier designation, indicating widespread transmission of the coronavirus, before in-person instruction resumes.
UTLA is also demanding vaccines for all educators.
"I want to return to work. I just can't right now because we don't have vaccinations and it's just we want to make sure the safety protocols are in place at school," said Wade Kyle, a special education teacher for 4th and 5th grades. "We miss our kids, we want to return to work. We just want to return when it's safe for everybody."
On Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that California will soon be setting aside 10% of all of the first-round vaccine doses it receives specifically for teachers, educators and childcare workers.
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The change will start on March 1, Newsom said, with a beginning baseline of at least 75,000 doses a week.
Teachers and childcare workers are already being prioritized to receive the vaccine in California and can already sign up to receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.
UTLA and the California Teachers Association said Newsom's announcement was a step in the right direction but did not signal that it would be enough to get teachers back into classrooms.
State lawmakers have also proposed a $6.5-billion plan to help schools reopen by April 15.
"We don't feel that our communities of color are there, to open, yet," said Jazmin Garcia, a parent who attended the rally in downtown L.A. "We feel like it's a rushed approach. And we've been very impacted, which is why we're out here."
Another rally is planned for Monday at the Federal Building near Westwood, organized by parents who want L.A. Unified schools to reopen and are calling for a "Zoom blackout."