(Reuters) – Public schools in Los Angeles are set to reopen from next month, after a teachers’ union approved a plan for a physical and hybrid return to classes.
Many schools continue to teach students remotely more than a year after the novel coronavirus prompted widespread closures across the United States, and the Biden administration has been aiming to reopen in-person learning for millions of public school students without sparking coronavirus outbreaks.
Education officials at the Los Angeles Unified School (LAUSD) district are tentatively planning for physical classes to restart at elementary and preschools by mid-April, while grades 7-12 are scheduled to return by about the end of April.
“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,” United Teachers Los Angeles union president Cecily Myart-Cruz said in a statement.
Under the agreement, elementary teachers will be expected to teach from their classrooms unless they have a verified medical reason to stay remote, while secondary teachers will teach most classes virtually.
The union said the district was also considering using outdoor tents for exceptionally large class sizes.
On Friday, the U.S. government updated its COVID-19 guidelines, halving the acceptable distance between students who are wearing masks to at least three feet (0.91 m) from at least six feet.
The teachers’ union said this change would not impact the agreement or its other safety measures – which include personal protective equipment, improved ventilation, daily cleaning and disinfection.
(Reporting by Sarah Morland in Gdansk, Editing by William Maclean)