LAUSD teachers union seeks student vaccine mandate, quarantine of entire classrooms in early grades

If the union representing teachers in Los Angeles Unified has its way, all students in the district would be required to get vaccinated against the coronavirus within 12 weeks of becoming age eligible, with exemptions made on medical or religious grounds. And should even one person in an early education or TK-6 classroom test positive for the virus, the entire class would immediately go into quarantine.

That’s according to a counter-proposal United Teachers Los Angeles submitted to the district last week as part of ongoing negotiations over COVID-19 safety measures and the district’s quarantine policy.

“This is a prudent and necessary safety measure in view of the recent number of positive tests at several schools, the outbreak reported at Grant Elementary, and the fact that students under 12 can’t be vaccinated yet,” UTLA said in an email to its members last week.

The union also asked for a 6% raise for all members and additional stipends for certain members, according to a counter-proposal, dated Aug. 26. The union shared a copy of an initial proposal by the district, along with three subsequent counter-proposals between the parties, with its members.

The parties were scheduled to resume negotiations on Monday, Aug. 30.

In the meantime, the district confirmed Monday its intention to move forward with an interim Continuity of Learning Plan for students forced to isolate or quarantine during the coronavirus pandemic. View this document on Scribd

Teachers must provide online access to live instruction to students instructed to stay home, whether it’s through synchronous online instruction or allowing students to log onto a livestream of an in-person lecture, according to a copy of the plan, obtained by the L.A. Daily News. The policy will take effect Sept. 8.

Before this week, there had been no policy requiring teachers to provide live instruction, to the frustration of many parents, including some who reported that their children had been sent home with no assignments or only work packets. Others said their children’s assignments were posted online but complained about the lack of live, online 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. “This plan serves as an interim guide for educators and supporting students during this difficult and unique time.”

Under the plan, if an entire class is quarantined, a teacher teaching early education, elementary or special education students must provide at least three hours of synchronous daily instruction for all pupils, post assignments through Schoology or another digital platform, provide feedback on progress and hold office hours. The minimum amount of daily synchronous instruction drops to 30 minutes per class period for students in middle and high school.

If a teacher is still working on campus but one or more students are quarantined, the teacher must provide in-person instruction to students physically present in the classroom as well as allow quarantined students to see and hear the classroom instruction through a livestream for the whole school day (for early education, elementary and special education students) or for the entire class period (for secondary students).

If a teacher and perhaps one or more students are quarantined but other students are still on campus, the teacher must provide live instruction via Zoom for all students, as well as Zoom breakout rooms for synchronous small-group instruction for students learning online. In the meantime, a substitute teacher will provide in-person support for students in the classroom, and the regular teacher must make themselves available on Zoom for students and the substitute for the duration of the regularly scheduled instructional time.

School board Vice President Nick Melvoin said in a statement it’s important for students in quarantine to remain connected to their teachers and classroom.

“This year will continue to bring a unique set of challenges and I will keep pushing for the resources, information, and improved processes to navigate those challenges and meet the needs of our students and families,” he said.

During the first week of school, which began Aug. 16, about 6,500 students and 1,000 employees were ordered to either isolate because they had tested positive for the coronavirus or to quarantine because they had been in close contact with an infected person. Last week, about 1,500 students and 125 employees had to isolate and approximately 4,000 students and 200 employees were told to quarantine, according to the district.

As of Sunday night, there were 2,605 active coronavirus cases among students and staff, the district reported.

As for the ongoing negotiations between the district and UTLA, it appears, based on the proposals that UTLA shared with its members — and which the district did not dispute — LAUSD initially offered a 4% across-the-board increase to UTLA members, a $500 technology stipend to all members and a $1,000 lump-sum payment to all regular classroom teachers.

The union first countered by asking for a 6% pay hike plus a 3% bonus for all unit members, plus a $2,000 technology stipend for members who had worked at least 90 days last school year. UTLA also demanded the student vaccine mandate and for an entire classroom to quarantine in the lower grades if there are any positive COVID-19 cases.

They also demanded that, for this school year, the district not evaluate permanent UTLA members and that it forgo any student standardized tests not required by state or federal law.

The district countered back, sticking to its 4% salary increase proposal, while offering to increase its one-time stipend offer to $1,500 for full-time UTLA members and a $500 technology stipend for employees who worked at least 90 days during the 2020-21 academic year.

The district would not agree to a student vaccine mandate, the automatic quarantining of an entire class due to one positive coronavirus case, or to skip all standardized assessments. It agreed not to evaluate permanent employees who have not received a “below standard” evaluation in the last five years.

UTLA countered again, insisting on the 6% raise. It amended its demands to include a $2,500 stipend for full-time unit members and a $2,000 technology stipend for employees who worked at least 90 days last year.

The district and UTLA resumed negotiations on Monday, but neither party has provided comments about the status of negotiations, nor have they said whether additional counter-proposals have been submitted since Thursday.

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