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Thursday, September 2, 2021

LOS ANGELES—The union representing teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District has announced its support for a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students aged 12 and over.

United Teachers Los Angeles is also pressing the district for "more robust" learning options for students who must quarantine due to exposure to the coronavirus.

The LAUSD announced its interim Continuity of Learning Plan on Monday. It includes providing instruction to quarantined students via a web conference tool in the event the entire class and teacher are in quarantine. If only a few students are in quarantine, lessons will be live-streamed.

"Students and families need clear expectations and support for learning at home while they're asked to isolate or quarantine," Interim Superintendent Megan Reilly said. "This plan serves as an interim guide for educators and supporting students during this difficult and unique time."

The union, however—which says it has engaged in two bargaining sessions with the district so far—is accusing Reilly of acting in bad faith by instructing principals to "unilaterally" implement the proposal without having reached a bargaining agreement as required by law and without it being vetted by parents and educators.

UTLA officials said Monday that they will file an unfair labor practice charge with the Public Employment Relations Board. The union's bargaining team has a counter-proposal that includes using a classroom camera for students to Zoom in during in-person instruction or meeting with quarantined students during scheduled office hours.

"Our bargaining team is bringing proposals to the table with educators and LAUSD families in mind," UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz said. "Families who have had their lives upended by their child having to quarantine do not need a cookie-cutter mandate—they need understanding, flexibility, and options. One-size-fits-all solutions do not work in this prolonged public health crisis."

The LAUSD did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the union's claims.

The UTLA also announced its support for a vaccine mandate for eligible students aged 12 and over. The UTLA had earlier supported the district's mandate that educators be vaccinated.

The district requires weekly COVID testing for students and employees, regardless of their vaccination status. All district employees must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 15.

Reilly has been serving as interim superintendent since former Superintendent Austin Beutner's contract expired June 30. On Monday, the district's Board of Education announced the start of a community outreach effort to gather input and public opinions about the search for Beutner's replacement.

Board members have set a timeline that includes candidate recruitment in the fall, and the selection of a new superintendent by winter.