The following article was originally republished Feb. 22, 2021 through a collaboration with KPCC and LAist.
Story by Caroline Champlin
The L.A. Unified School District will resume some specialized on-campus services next week as the district works towards a broader reopening targeted for April 9, Superintendent Austin Beutner announced during his weekly video update on Monday.
Next week's in-person offerings will include child care, special education services, athletic conditioning and small-group tutoring, based on existing terms set last October by the district and the teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles.
Under that agreement, educators can voluntarily provide in-person support, but the district cannot compel them to participate. Last semester, about 4,000 LAUSD students and more than 15,000 staff participated in the program daily, before it was suspended when the coronavirus case rate surged in early December.
Lisa Mosko, director of special education advocacy for the parents' group, Speak Up, says the partial reopening is a step in the right direction.
"I wish it had happened sooner, to be honest," Mosko said. "Many students with disabilities have attentional issues that make it hard for them to sit still long enough and just focus on a screen."
Mosko also wants more details on the plan, like how parent feedback will be incorporated, and which schools will participate. Beutner said school principals will have information to offer over the course of the week.
As for a general reopening for elementary school students, Beutner says progress is underway. While Beutner had announced earlier this month that the district hoped to reopen within 60 days, he hadn't previously set a specific target date.
"We've done our part — the highest standards of health measures are in place at schools," Beutner said. "The community continues to do its part as the levels of the virus continue to decline."
The missing element is vaccines for teachers, Beutner said. The union that represents LAUSD teachers says its members won't return to the classroom without being vaccinated.
The L.A. County Public Health Department announced that educators will become eligible for shots starting in March, and Governor Gavin Newsom indicated that 10% of the state's supply will be earmarked for them. But Beutner and UTLA representatives have suggested that the timeline might not be fast enough, considering the shortage of doses.
"My goal of April 9th is still possible, but we need to start today, not tomorrow, not next week," Beutner said in his address. "We stand ready to work with state and local health authorities — get us the doses and we'll get it done."
Meanwhile, state lawmakers are also working towards a deal to guarantee vaccinations for educators and school staff who return to campus. The proposal, AB 86/SB86, is expected to be discussed in the legislature today.
That $6.5 million proposal is essentially a revised version of Gov. Gavin Newsom's "Safe Schools For All Plan," which was criticized by lawmakers and superintendents for asking too much of school districts too quickly.
Like that plan, this bill offers $2 billion to districts that reopen campuses to serve the highest needs students, including homeless, foster and disabled youth in counties under the less restrictive red-tier. Los Angeles County is still in the most-restrictive purple-tier. Districts would be expected to post reopening safety guidelines on their websites by April 1.
Unlike Newsom's proposal, this new bill has the support of UTLA, LAUSD and Long Beach Unified.