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Teachers union in nation's second-largest school district wants schools to remain closed

A union representing teachers in Los Angeles, the second-largest school district in the country, says schools should remain closed.United Teachers Los...

Posted: Jul 11, 2020 10:48 AM

A union representing teachers in Los Angeles, the second-largest school district in the country, says schools should remain closed.

United Teachers Los Angeles, which represents teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), announced its stance Thursday, recommending that the district keep campuses closed during rising coronavirus infections and deaths.

"It is time to take a stand against Trump's dangerous, anti-science agenda that puts the lives of our members, our students, and our families at risk," said UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz in a statement. "We all want to physically open schools and be back with our students, but lives hang in the balance. Safety has to be the priority. We need to get this right for our communities."

As of now, the semester is set to begin on August 18, but the UTLA is asking that the district instead focus on "distance learning practices" for the fall.

UTLA, which consists of 35,000 teachers, also condemned both the state and federal governments, saying that neither have provided additional resources or funds to carry out the additional health and safety measures necessary. The organization also said there isn't enough time for the district to put together a detailed plan for the safe return to campus.

Meanwhile, LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner said earlier this week there has yet to be a decision about what a return to schools will look like for the upcoming year.

"No decision has been made about a return to school facilities, but it's reasonable to assume instruction will include an online component for most students," he said.

Schools have provided internet access and a tablet or laptop to every student who needed it when schools initially went virtual earlier this year, he said.

LAUSD serves 673,849 students in kindergarten through 12th grade at more than 1,000 schools. The district also has more than 200 independently-operated public charter schools. The district covers 710 square miles, including most of the city of Los Angeles, along with all or portions of 26 cities and unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County. Only New York City Schools is larger with 1.1 million students.

Meanwhile, nearby Santa Ana Unified School District approved a plan Tuesday giving families a choice between all-virtual learning or a hybrid with on-campus instruction.

UTLA cited its own research paper in which the union found that Black, Latino and Pacific Islanders in Los Angeles County are dying of Covid-19 at twice the rate of White residents — findings that are consistent with other research done across the country.

As school reopening dates begin to creep ever closer, questions regarding safe reopening have been rampant, particularly as coronavirus cases in the US show little signs of slowing down. President Donald Trump has ramped up pressure on officials to reopen schools despite these rising numbers, though both parents and teachers are split on whether the benefits outweigh the risks.

For colleges and universities, many have instated plans to limit in-person classes for their students because of the pandemic.

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