While classrooms across California remain empty and many students struggle with online learning and social isolation, politicians and union leaders are battling over how and when to reopen schools.
Cecily Myart Cruz is president of UTLA, the union which represents LA Unified teachers, counselors and nurses. She says they want to return to campus, but with safety measures implemented.
“We want safety, and we want that now,” Cruz said. “It needs to be safe, which means vaccinations need to be readily available for folks.”
The union’s demand for vaccinations for educators drew criticism from Governor Gavin Newsom Thursday. During an online discussion with the Association of California School Administrators, Newsom said “if we wait for the perfect, we might as well just pack it up and be honest with folks that we’re not going to open for in person instruction this school year.”
“I want to put the blame right back onto our government officials as well as our county folks. I don’t like pointing fingers, but I’m going to point fingers over there,” Cruz added.
She points to the rocky rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations, the reopening of restaurants and other nonessential businesses while case rates are still high, and inadequate government funding is available for schools.
In an unusual twist, the teachers union and the district seem to be in agreement.
“Until there’s a clear state standard we can all understand, and until staff is vaccinated, I don’t think we have a path to see schools open,” said LA Unified Superintendent, Austin Beutner.
With UTLA and LAUSD still negotiating on terms for reopening, when asked if it’s likely students will return to classrooms this academic year, Beutner said it’s a question, which at this point, has no agreed upon answers.
“I would love to say the answer to that question is yes. We want to be there, there is no question about that. How are we going to get there is the question.”