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Union Leader On Why Kids Should Not Be Back In Classrooms This Fall


And I'm Ailsa Chang in Los Angeles, where the public school year begins in just over a month. But how will it begin? That is still an open question. Yesterday, the leadership of the union that represents Los Angeles Unified School District teachers recommended that school campuses remain closed this fall and for classes to continue online. Today on Twitter, President Trump called for schools to reopen for the fall semester and threatened to withhold funding if they don't. Joining us now is the president of United Teachers Los Angeles, Cecily Myart-Cruz. Welcome.

CECILY MYART-CRUZ: Yes. Hi. Thank you, Ailsa. I totally appreciate being on here. And hello to all the listeners out there.

CHANG: Well, we're glad you're here with us. So tell us why you don't think kids should be back - physically back - in-person at schools at the start of this school year?

MYART-CRUZ: Yes. So, you know, it's about health and safety, and we're looking at the health and safety of our babies. We're looking at the health and safety of members, parents and our communities that we serve. And, you know, in just over a month, we don't feel that the district is ready to usher that in. And we have to look at health and safety as the No. 1 priority.

CHANG: And so far, how has the school board in Los Angeles reacted to this recommendation from you?

MYART-CRUZ: You know, I don't know. Yesterday, our bargaining co-chair, Arlene Inouye, who is our secretary, took in our bargaining team. They did, you know, discuss with the bargaining - their - the district's bargaining team and told them, you know, we have a set of proposals - right? - to bring across the table that outline the necessary conditions for starting LAUSD schools in 2021. And so having those - having that out there, not having the district - you know, I mean - I think, you know, what the superintendent has been saying - he's been saying along the same lines, you know, because the situation has been a very fluid situation...

CHANG: Sure.

MYART-CRUZ: ...You know, and with Wednesday having the most coronavirus cases, that is the reason our bargaining team came to our executive board and said we must move in this fashion. We need to be swift.

CHANG: That said, if I may, I mean, there were a lot of problems with online learning this past school year. Classrooms closed in March, and a survey of Los Angeles Unified School District parents found that fewer than half of them felt distance learning was at all successful. There were connectivity issues, especially in poor neighborhoods. So what exactly is your union proposing this new school year to make sure that things are better this time around?

MYART-CRUZ: Well, first of all, I want to go back to that statement and I want to say that the educators did their absolute very best. We uphold that. We champion the work that they did. We called for schools to be closed on March the 12. Schools were closed officially March 13. And our members were up and rolling the following week. So I want to just put that out there to say no one knew that we were going to be in a pandemic. No one knew that it was going to take this long. Of course, our educators, first and foremost, want to be with their students. I want to be clear about that. People want to physically be with their students, but it's a health and safety issue. As far as a robust crisis learning...

CHANG: All right. I'm afraid we're going to have to leave it there. That is Cecily Myart-Cruz. She is the president of United Teachers Los Angeles. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.