Just days after 91% of their membership voted to refuse to return to classrooms until all their demands were met, the United Teachers Los Angeles union announced an agreement with the Los Angeles Unified School District to return to part-time in-person learning in mid-April.
The announcement was made late Tuesday night in a joint statement from UTLA and the district, which was initially reported by local news outlets.
BREAKING: UTLA and LAUSD have finally reached a deal to begin reopening LA schools for in person instruction in mid… https://t.co/x4GZWoDaDi— Bill Melugin (@Bill Melugin) 1615349405.0
The announcement states that the agreement is "tentative" and is conditional on Los Angeles County being in the "red" tier per state guidelines, as well as all teachers having access to the COVID vaccine. Neither of these requirements has been suggested as necessary for the safe reopening of schools by the CDC, California health officials, or any other public health organization in the United States, but UTLA has insisted on them as preconditions for finally reopening Los Angeles schools.
Under the plan, elementary students will be permitted to return to in-person instruction "in a hybrid morning/afternoon model, while maintaining the option for students to remain in online-only instruction." The plan calls for "students remaining in small, stable cohorts while on campus to help prevent the spread of COVID-19." Middle and high school students will not be eligible to return to campus until the end of April, at least.
The announced agreement would not seem to make the Los Angeles Unified School District eligible for grant money under Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom's reopening plan, which conditions the receipt of grant money on schools reopening for in-person learning by the end of March.
If the plan comes to fruition, the Los Angeles Unified School District will become one of the last school districts in the country to finally reopen for in-person learning. New York City schools were open for elementary students last fall and even returned middle school students on Feb. 25. New York City high schools are currently scheduled to reopen on March 22nd. Likewise, after a contentious battle with the Chicago Teachers Union, Chicago schools reopened for elementary school students on the first of March, and negotiations are ongoing for the reopening of high schools in Chicago.
Research has suggested that schools are not a significant driver of COVID-19 transmission, even in communities with active spread of the disease.