UTLA members overwhelmingly approve COVID-era agreement with LAUSD

Members of United Teachers Los Angeles, the union representing teachers and other certificated employees in Los Angeles Unified, have voted overwhelmingly to ratify an agreement with the school district related to quarantine instruction, COVID-19 health-and-safety measures and compensation.

Nearly 15,800 people in the approximately 34,000-member union voted over a three-day period that ended Saturday, Oct. 2, Of those who cast ballots, 97% voted to ratify the agreement, the union announced.

The tentative agreement still must be ratified by the school board before it becomes official.

Under the agreement, teachers must provide live online instruction daily to students forced to quarantine at home because of the coronavirus pandemic. The agreement also provides for virtual instruction for students during wildfire-related school closures.

“As educators, we want to help make sure that students who have to quarantine stay connected to the classroom so that they can jump right back in when they return,” UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz said in a statement.

Earlier this year, the district had imposed a quarantine instruction policy that required teachers who were still teaching in-person to provide live online access to their classrooms for quarantined students for the entire school day for elementary students, or the entire class period for middle and high schoolers. But under the tentative agreement, a teacher is only required to provide live online instruction for half that time.

Some parents have complained that students will miss out on half the instructional time while others said they understand it’s not easy for teachers to manage a classroom in-person while simultaneously trying to teach students online.

In addition to laying out the terms for quarantine instruction, the tentative agreement would pave the way for more educators who are teaching in-person to be reassigned to the district’s online independent study program. The program, which has seen at least an 11-fold increase in enrollment this year because many families aren’t ready to send their children to campus for in-person learning amid the pandemic, has struggled with staffing issues.

The deal would also require all students and staff on campuses to continue undergoing COVID-19 tests weekly, regardless of vaccination status, through the remainder of this semester and for everyone at school to wear masks indoors and outdoors through at least Dec. 1.

If the tentative agreement is also ratified by the school board — the board is expected to vote Oct. 12 — all UTLA members would receive a 5% salary increase, retroactive to July 1. Eligible members would also receive stipends worth up to $2,500 for the additional work required of them under the agreement and as reimbursement for technology expenses incurred while working from home last school year.

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