As school districts across the country struggle with ways to put students back in the classroom, public schools in Los Angeles are set to reopen for in-person instruction in April under a plan approved by the teachers union on Sunday.
The plan calls for preschools and elementary schools to reopen by the middle of next month, including services for all students with learning disabilities. The Los Angeles Board of Education approved the plan on March 11.
Middle schools and high schools will reopen by the end of April, with students being given the option to complete the spring semester online if they choose, according to the agreement.
“We recognize the decision whether a child will return to school at this time is not a simple one,” Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner said in a town hall meeting with faith leaders.
Under the agreement, the April reopening dates could be pushed back if coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County go back up. The district also agreed that all school staff will have access to the Covid-19 vaccine.
Additionally, schools would only return when Los Angeles County falls below the purple tier designated by the state health department for safety, according to a statement from the United Teachers of Los Angeles.
The teachers union also said the agreement also calls for enforceable safety conditions and protocols at every school, including PPE, stringent social distancing, improved ventilation, and a new daily school building cleaning regimen.
The CDC’s recent shift calling for only 3 feet of physical distance in schools instead of 6 feet will not impact the agreement or any of the other protocols.
“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,” said Cecily Myart-Cruz, president of the United Teachers Los Angeles.
The teachers union says 89% of its membership voted in favor of the plan with 20,413 ballots cast.
According to the school district, the health and safety protocols are being developed, including symptom checks and screening; modified classroom layouts; staggered start times; physical distancing of at least 6 feet; one-way foot traffic in hallways; face coverings; disinfecting furniture and other surfaces; and upgrading air-filtration systems.
The Los Angeles school district is the nation’s second largest, with more than 600,000 students at more than 1,000 schools in grades K-12.
CNN’s Stella Chan contributed to this report from Los Angeles.