LOS ANGELES - The debate over when to reopen California schools is heating up. The California legislature approved a $6.5 billion proposal on Thursday with the goal of getting kids back to campuses by the spring. However, the teachers' union for the Los Angeles Unified School District is pushing back.
The $6.5 billion "Safe and Open Schools" plan aims to get California kids back to in-person learning after nearly a year of closures due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. It would ultimately overhaul a $2 billion proposal from Governor Gavin Newsom that was widely criticized by school superintendents, unions and lawmakers
The money allotted triples funding for schools and requires County public health departments to offer vaccinations to school staff who return to in-person classes, which has been a huge issue, especially for LA Unified. Its teachers’ union, UTLA, demands teachers along with all school employees be eligible to receive the vaccine before returning to campuses.
Some school districts are not waiting for the vaccines to become available to all educators, following instead the recommendations set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last week, they announced it is safe to reopen schools with strict guidelines like mask-wearing, even if staff members have not been vaccinated.
On Thursday, South Pasadena Unified began its phased reopening by welcoming back kindergarten through second-grade students.
The new proposal comes with a timeline for reopening with school districts required to offer in-person classes by April 15th to "vulnerable" students, including English learners, homeless students, those without computers and foster children.
The proposal also requires schools that receive the money to reopen for all students in grades TK-6 when case rates in their counties drop below 7 per 100,0000.
Meanwhile, LA Unified School parents are planning to band together to protest the district’s closures. They’re calling for a Zoom blackout starting Monday. Parents asked to not sign their children in for online learning but instead protest with their kids in front of their schools.
In a joint statement from several school districts including LA Unified and Long Beach Unified, superintendents seemed supportive of the proposal and funding, calling it a step in the right direction, adding that the "proposed action recognizes the critical role vaccinations for all school staff play in creating the safest possible school environment."