The union representing Los Angeles Unified teachers has accused the school district of bargaining in bad faith over a learning plan for students quarantining because of the coronavirus pandemic and said it will file an unfair labor practice charge with the Public Employment Relations Board.
The two sides had been negotiating over a Continuity of Learning Plan for students isolating or quarantining at home because they tested positive for the coronavirus, or were in close contact with someone who was infected.
United Teachers Los Angeles, in a statement late Monday, Aug. 30, said it had been calling for a plan that provided greater flexibility and options for educators and families, including “more robust learning options” for students.
The union had proposed giving teachers the option to set up a camera in the classroom and having quarantined students learn with their peers via Zoom during regular class time, or to have educators meet with these students during office hours. The office hours would allow students to meet in small groups in a more direct way with the instructor and provide more flexibility for students and families to access instruction, UTLA stated.
But the district, after attempts to negotiate terms of the plan with the union, this week sent a memo to school principals indicating its intent to require all teachers to provide some level of live online instruction to students who are home, whether through synchronous online instruction if an entire class is quarantined, or by allowing students to log in to a live stream of the class lecture.
This was in response to complaints from parents whose children were quarantined without live instruction.
“Students and families need clear expectations and support for learning at home while they’re asked to isolate or quarantine,” interim Superintendent Megan Reilly said in a statement earlier Monday. “This plan serves as an interim guide for educators and supporting students during this difficult and unique time.”
UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz, meanwhile, said one-size-fits-all solutions don’t work in a public health crisis.
“Our bargaining team is bringing proposals to the table with educators and LAUSD families in mind,” Myart-Cruz stated. “Families who have had their lives upended by their child having to quarantine do not need a cookie-cutter mandate — they need understanding, flexibility, and options.”
UTLA, in its statement, accused Reilly of bargaining in bad faith by instructing principals to “unilaterally implement the district’s Continuity of Learning proposal — without having reached a bargaining agreement as required by law and without it being vetted by parents and educators.”
The district did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
As part of ongoing negotiations between UTLA and the district, the union had also asked for a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all eligible students, similar to what the Culver City school district is mandating.
UTLA requested that all students get the COVID-19 vaccine within 12 weeks of becoming age eligible, with exemptions granted based on medical or religious grounds.
The union noted that this position is in line with its support of LAUSD’s employee vaccine mandate and that it comes following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s full approval of the Pfizer vaccine. The FDA has granted full approval of the vaccine for people 16 and older. The vaccine is still under emergency use authorization for kids 12 through 15, though Pfizer is expected to apply for full approval for this age group in the future.
The union last week also demanded that for early education and TK-6 classrooms, an entire class should have to quarantine if there’s even a single positive coronavirus case. The district is only mandating individuals who test positive for the virus or certain others, including unvaccinated individuals who had close contact with an infected person, to stay home.
The district defines “close contact” as being within 6 feet of an infected person for 15 minutes or longer over a 24-hour period.
The district amended its policy last week so that vaccinated individuals with no symptoms won’t have to quarantine, a position that is consistent with public health guidance from the county and state.