August 1, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Teachers need COVID vaccine to reopen L.A. schools, Beutner says

Reopening Los Angeles campuses for students in kindergarten through 12th grade will require the vaccination of teachers and other staff, says L.A. schools Supt. Austin Beutner. The teachers union is going a step further, saying vaccinations alone would not be enough to operate schools safely until the community spread of COVID-19 is brought down.

Their stances throw into question whether schools will be able to reopen this academic year as there is currently no firm date for inoculating teachers.

“Vaccinations are a critical piece of the puzzle, and we’re all frustrated at the pace of the rollout despite everyone’s best efforts,” Beutner said in remarks broadcast Monday.

The L.A. schools chief called vaccines “the last piece to help reopen classrooms,” in addition to such measures as providing funding to operate campuses safely and consistent rules on when campuses should be reopening.

“There’s a unique and important benefit to vaccinating all who work in schools — doing so will help reopen schools sooner,” Beutner said. “This will not only protect the health and safety of staff but will provide enormous benefit to children and their families with a faster reopening of schools and of the economy more broadly by enabling the working families we serve to go back to work.”

At this point, vaccines are not widely available locally for teachers and other school staff, although Long Beach, which has its own health department, is expected to begin teacher vaccinations this week.

Leaders of the teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles, essentially agree with Beutner on the importance of vaccinations for school staff but also insist that vaccines will not be an immediate panacea. They want to see coronavirus infection rates drop significantly in communities served by Los Angeles Unified, the nation’s second-largest school system.

The union and district are in negotiations over what a return to campus would look like. The two sides were unable to reach agreement Sunday — which was their self-imposed deadline. Those negotiations are continuing.

Meanwhile, the spring semester is continuing online.

L.A. County health officials have advised against any reopening during the month of January.