By The Signal Editorial Board
The William S. Hart Union High School District board voted unanimously Wednesday to have students, teachers and staff work online for this fall, at least for the first five weeks, after which they will then re-evaluate the situation. At the five-week point they will decide whether to continue online or return to the classrooms.
Even then, the decision may be out of their hands: Two days later, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that no schools in counties on the state’s COVID-19 “watch list” can open until they have been off the list for 14 days. The way things are going with the virus’ spread in L.A. County, it’s difficult to believe that will happen until a vaccine is broadly available. So buckle up, it’s likely to be a long ride — one that reinforces the notion that northern Los Angeles County, including the Santa Clarita Valley, should continue to strive to be reviewed separately from the rest of the L.A. County COVID-19 mess.
Regardless, on Wednesday the Hart District was trying to decide between a blended model — in which groups of students would attend school in person on different days — online-only instruction or a full return to classrooms on school campuses.
While we believe the majority of parents would like to see their children go back to in-person instruction on campus, they also want to make sure their children go back safely.
The Hart District Teachers Association said 85% of their teachers “did not feel safe” returning to the classroom, according to a poll they conducted.
We believe the majority of the board would like to see in-person instruction as soon as possible, but made the difficult, correct decision considering the current circumstances, teachers’ reluctance and uncertain times. The board left the door open for re-evaluation five weeks into the semester, when the situation with COVID-19 may be more clear.
Whether you agree or disagree with the board, at least the decision was made by a board and teachers who all seemed to genuinely care about the students’ instruction and the safety of students, teachers and staff.
It was not a political decision.
We emphasize that fact because this is not the situation in all school districts in the state. In fact, in the Los Angeles Unified School District, which decided to have online instruction only, it has become very clear it’s political, leaving a black mark on everyone involved.
The Los Angeles teachers’ union is one of the most powerful in the state, and United Teachers Los Angeles issued a broad range of demands in a report entitled, “The Same Storm, but Different Boats: The Safe and Equitable Conditions for Starting LAUSD in 2020-21.”
Their demands included implementing a moratorium on private schools, defunding the police, increasing taxes on the wealthy, implementing Medicare for all, and passing the HEROES Act, allocating an additional $116 billion in federal education funding to the states.
Essentially, the UTLA wants a broad range of political and social justice issues — many of which are completely out of the LAUSD’s control — resolved to their satisfaction before schools reopen.
The Los Angeles teachers’ demands have nothing to do with the safety of students or teachers, or the quality of instruction, but have everything to do with the kind of political outcome they are trying to achieve. They are using their students as weapons in a political game and are exhibiting outrageous behavior in putting the students’ education at risk.
In L.A., it’s politics first, students’ needs second. Thank goodness we have no such madness here.