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UTLA Votes Overwhelmingly To Return To Classroom – CBS Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) –United Teachers Los Angeles members overwhelmingly approved an agreement on safe return and hybrid instruction, it was reported Sunday.

The vote was 89% in favor of the return, UTLA Communications Director Anna Bakalis reported. The vote was conducted from March 18 through March 21 and conducted by Integrity Voting Systems. A total of 20,413 ballots were cast, with 18,127 voting yes. The LAUSD Board of Education unanimously approved the agreement on March 11.

At a virtual town hall meeting, Superintendent Austin Beutner said elementary schools will start April 12th, which is one week earlier than announced.

He also said the district will start vaccinating families starting April 5th, which does not include teachers but parents and students age 16 and up.

The agreement achieves the three safety criteria endorsed by a previous vote of UTLA members and establishes strict and enforceable safety procedures, which are the highest safety standards in the nation, Bakalis said.

The safety criteria include access to vaccination for school staff, returning only while Los Angeles County remains below the purple tier and enforceable safety conditions and protocols will occur at every school. These include personal protection equipment, stringent social distancing, improved ventilation and a new daily facilities cleaning regimen, Bakalis said.

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The CDC’s recent shift calling for only 3 feet of physical distance in schools instead of the 6 feet used in the LAUSD will not impact the agreement or any of the other protocols, Bakalis said.

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“Every step of the way, UTLA educators have kept our students and communities safer, from the call to close down schools early in the pandemic to holding the line against an unsafe return,” UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz said. “While the improving COVID-19 situation is still fragile, we believe this agreement puts LAUSD on the path to a physical reopening of schools that puts safety first.”

The agreement requires that educators be given access to vaccination with time for both shots and the necessary time for full efficacy, Bakalis said. At this point, the district is tentatively planning a mid-April physical return for TK-6 and an end of April/beginning of May physical return for grades 7 through 12.

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(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)