The union representing Los Angeles Unified teachers continues to insist that its members have the choice of allowing students who are home isolating or quarantining because of the coronavirus pandemic to watch a livestream of their classroom instruction or providing separate live virtual instruction through Zoom.
According to the latest counterproposal that United Teachers Los Angeles submitted to the district as part of ongoing negotiations, dated Thursday, Sept. 2, the union is also now demanding that students, parents and the district be barred from recording a teacher providing instruction without the teacher’s prior approval, and that a violation of this shall result in the student no longer being able to access live virtual instruction without the teacher’s permission.
Furthermore, UTLA is demanding that any virtual instruction not be factored into a teacher’s evaluation. (Previous counterproposals between the district and union indicate the parties agree that permanent UTLA members who haven’t received a “below standard” evaluation the last five years could forgo an evaluation this year.)
While the union and district have yet to reach an agreement related to the delivery of live online instruction, UTLA acknowledged to its members the importance of providing the instruction to students forced to stay home.
“This would be the first time throughout the pandemic that these students would have no access to live engagement with their teachers if we don’t virtually allow them in. That would not be healthy after the trauma of the last 18 months,” the union said in an email to its members. “The ability for staff and students to quarantine is a linchpin of our safety protocols, which means we must provide quarantining students with reasonable access to instruction and protect the rights of our members.”
Early this week, after failing to reach an agreement with UTLA over a Continuity of Learning Plan for quarantined students, the district imposed its own plan, requiring 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 livestream of the class lecture.
The union had proposed giving teachers the option of having students log in via Zoom during regular class time or allowing educators to meet with these students virtually during office hours. UTLA criticized interim Superintendent Megan Reilly, accusing the district of negotiating in bad faith. Union leaders said they would file an unfair labor practice charge.
In its latest counterproposal, UTLA suggested amendments to the district’s Continuity of Learning Plan, with the option for teachers to provide live online instruction either through livestream or separate Zoom sessions with students.
Depending on the situation, UTLA proposed scenarios including: a minimum of three hours of synchronous instruction for elementary students or 30 minutes minimum per period for secondary students if an entire class is quarantining; at least two hours of livestreaming or Zoom instruction daily for elementary students or 30 minutes minimum per period for secondary students if only some students are quarantined; or live online instruction for all students if the teacher is quarantining. In the last scenario, a substitute teacher would be available to help students who are present in the classroom.
The union is doubling down on the idea that any staff member or student who’s been exposed to an infected person must quarantine, irrespective of vaccination status — at least for several days. The district recently updated its policy to say that vaccinated individuals with no symptoms after exposure to an infected person do not have to quarantine, though they should take a COVID-19 test on the sixth day after a close contact.
UTLA, meanwhile, is proposing that fully vaccinated students and employees quarantine, and if they test negative for the coronavirus on Day 5 and are asymptomatic, that they can then return to campus on Day 8. Additionally, under the proposal, employees and students who aren’t fully vaccinated would quarantine for 10 days, and employees and students can’t return to campus or a job site until they’re cleared by the district’s community engagement team, which is made up of nurses and administrative staff.
The union is also demanding that weekly mandatory COVID-19 tests for students and staff on campuses continue at least through Dec. 31, regardless of vaccination status. The item could be renegotiated after that time, UTLA proposes.
In its latest proposal, the union removed language requiring a student vaccine mandate, which was in its previous proposal. But the union has indicated it won’t stop advocating for such a mandate.
“Outside of bargaining, we continue to press LAUSD to take this important step as Culver City Unified has,” UTLA said in its email to members.
UTLA continues to demand a 6% raise for its members, as well as a $2,500 one-time stipend for full-time unit members and a $2,000 technology stipend for all members who worked at least 90 days last school year.
The union said in its email to its members that the district’s latest offer includes a 4% salary increase and a lower amount in stipends than what the union is seeking.
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This week, the union also asked for a $5,000 one-time stipend for school nurses “to help retain these staff members who are critical to keeping our learning communities safe and healthy, but who are difficult to attract and retain,” the union told its members.
Furthermore, the union is seeking a 50% reduction in district assessments of students at each grade level. Previously, UTLA had demanded that the district skip any student standardized tests not required by state or federal law, an idea which the district rejected.
The next bargaining session between the district and union is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 10.