LBUSD and its teachers union have struck a deal at last to allow faculty some flexibility on where they teach during the upcoming semester, which will begin as entirely virtual because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The new academic year begins Sept. 1.
The bargaining teams for the union and the Long Beach Unified School District reached the agreement on Monday night, Aug. 17, after 10 hours of negotiating.
LBUSD officials had sought to have teachers give their lessons from campus, despite students not being allowed there for the time being; the Teachers Association of Long Beach has wanted its members to have the option of working from campus or home.
The “vast majority of our members will be granted flexibility on where they are eligible to teach,” according to a TALB announcement on its website.
“I’m glad the district made some concessions,” Gwen Larsen, an English teacher at Long Beach Poly, said. “However, it still felt very unsatisfactory in a couple of aspects. I’m glad they conceded, but the concessions are not equitable for all teachers.
“It left out special education, child development, speech and language teachers … they have to teach in their classrooms and don’t have that flexibility. These teachers have participated in both car caravans. I get that bringing back younger kids first, but it does all come down to safety."
The sides are still scheduled to meet today, Thursday, with several other topics still on the table, including the amount of synchronous online instruction.
The Long Beach Post first reported the deal between LBUSD and TALB.
But, according to the union’s announcement, there is still concern for the teachers “who may be required to teach with students or those who report to their school sites to teach from empty classrooms.”
Larsen, who has three kids in the Long Beach Unified School District, said she will have the choice of either teaching at home or in the classroom.
Last week, the district confirmed positive COVID-19 cases at Poly and Millikan, causing more fears among teachers.
“Personally, I do have a choice (of where to teach),” Larsen said. “But if there are confirmed cases (on campus), I will stay home. I would love to go in on certain days, but I can’t make that choice if they’re not disclosing information.
“I have three kids in the district and I understand that parents want their kids to go back as soon as possible, but I want everyone to be as safe as possible.”
LBUSD officials sent a letter to staff in July announcing the plan to have teachers to work from campus, even though the school year will begin online for students.
“With health and safety at the forefront, we are planning to have all teachers return to their classrooms for the 2020-21 school year, beginning August 31,” the letter read. “Working from the classroom will address some of the challenges experienced by teachers during home learning.”
The issue caused parents and teachers to protest, leading to multiple car caravans, including one Monday afternoon. The district and teachers have been negotiating for weeks, including having 14 virtual, hour-long meetings over the weekend, according to the TALB announcement.
“While to some of you, the process of negotiations seemed new, please know that this is a process that is important to all of us as colleagues and as an educational system, and it is not a new process,” superintendent Jill Baker said in an email sent to employees Monday night. “The process that we have engaged in since July 2 needs to be recognized, appreciated and respected. I want to thank the members of the TALB negotiating team and the school district negotiating team for coming together for many hours to find that common ground.”
LBUSD cannot let students back on campus until Los Angeles County gets off a state watch list for two weeks. The county appears to be making progress toward that, but still has a ways to go.
The county, for example, has met five of six standards required to get off the list, including recently seeing its positive testing rate dip below 8% in its seven-day average.
But the county must also have fewer than 100 cases per 100,000 residents — but is well above that. As of Monday, according to health officials, the county was at 295.