More than half of Los Angeles Unified teachers who responded to a union poll want to continue the district’s indoor mask mandate, and union leaders have proposed lifting the requirement in schools where at least 75% of staff and students are vaccinated.
According to an update the union sent to members Thursday morning, 58% were in favor of complying with the requirement and 42% in favor of ending it. The poll was conducted as the district and union negotiate the future of masking and coronavirus testing in the country’s second-largest school system.
The survey was conducted on March 13-14 and more than 18,500 union members took part. According to the latest figures, the union has more than 30,000 members and represents nurses, consultants and librarians as well as teachers.
Most school districts in Los Angeles County have moved to optional masking — as permitted by county health officials, who continue to strongly recommend mask use for indoor schools.
LA Unified has not released its negotiation proposals, but Supt. Alberto Carvalho has stated that he is willing to transition the district to optional masking. He has also said he wants to scale down the costly weekly testing program so the money saved can be used for other student needs.
In a previous agreement, LA school officials pledged to negotiate with the teachers’ union over masking. Most other school systems were not bound by such an agreement with their teachers’ union. Leaders of other LA Unified unions said they also wanted to be consulted on the matter.
Families are divided over the issue. In an early February poll, a clear majority wanted masking to continue, but that was closer to the peak of the omicron surge and before county officials allowed schools to make masking optional. newer, informal surveys from two parent groups in Los Angeles suggested that most parents now prefer optional masking, although communities hardest hit by the pandemic were likely underrepresented in those polls.
A group of families protested against masks outside the United Teachers Los Angeles headquarters this week.
There are strong feelings and strong followings on both sides of the masking debate.
In addition to masking, a second survey question also has potential implications for families. Union members weighed whether to end the weekly coronavirus testing program. On this issue, 76% supported keeping mandatory weekly testing for all students and staff; 24% supported removing the requirement.
The union has proposed weekly testing continue until June 30 – essentially the end of the current school year – and from June 28
Schools that do not meet this threshold would maintain the required indoor masking.
The threshold might be difficult to reach on some campuses, particularly elementary schools. As of March 29, 29% of children ages 5 to 11 in Los Angeles County were fully vaccinated Figures provided by the county health department Department.
By the age of 12 to 17, 77% of the county’s residents are fully vaccinated.
All school staff must be vaccinated in LA Unified, which would help schools reach the 75% threshold.
The union also wants LA Unified to commit to regular data updates on test results. The union proposal also calls on the district to “meet and consider the possible need to re-implement indoor mask requirements if positivity rates derived from the district testing program increase for two consecutive weeks.”
In its update to members, the union also described the district’s counter-proposal in ongoing negotiations.
According to the union, the district proposed ending the mask requirement on March 18 and continuing to provide high-quality masks to all employees upon request.
The district has proposed a weekly testing schedule that varies based on the age of the students. For early education centers and elementary schools, the weekly required tests would continue until the end of the students’ academic year. In secondary schools, testing would continue until April 29.
The weekly testing would still take the form of PCR tests, which are more accurate at detecting infections sooner, but are also more expensive – because they have to be sent to a lab overnight for processing.
The district has also proposed “required baseline antigen testing” for all staff and students before returning from spring break, according to the union. Antigen testing provides almost instant results and can be very effective in determining when a person is most contagious.
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-03-17/in-union-poll-58-of-l-a-unified-teachers-want-to-keep-mandatory-masking Poll: 58% of LA Unified teachers want to keep masking