Defne Onal staff writer
UPDATE (10:32 AM, Feb. 22, 2021): On Feb. 19, BHUSD announced a physical return to school on March 4 for grades TK-2, and on March 8 for grades 3-5, following county guidelines but in violation of the MOU Addendum #5. On Feb. 20, “the BHEA Executive Board met and voted to approve the filing of injunctive relief,” according to BHEA President Alana Castanon.
Elementary grades could resume on-campus learning as early as March 1, since the Adjustable Case Rate has formally changed to 20 according to Los Angeles County public health officials. The Adjustable Case Rate of 7 remains unchanged for the physical reopening for Middle and High Schools.
This update from LA county and the District negatively affects the Teacher Union’s MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) and Addendum’s agenda.
“In the step by step process of bringing students back to in-person instruction, and that starts with our TK-2, that is not permissible under our current agenda, until case rates fall between 10 and 7 which is the adjusted case rate. Now, the county has changed their adjusted case rate and changed what they find to be permissible. It’s not fitting according to our current contract,” Union President, Alana Castanon says.
According to the Union, the MOU is independent from LA county regulations.
“It’s part of our contract right now, and that contract was agreed to in December. These other fluctuations and decisions that are made by the state or county, our contracts can be more restrictive than state or county guidelines,” Castanon says.
The District disagrees, stating that the agenda of the MOU and Addendum are deemed null with a LA county ruling.
“The main heading of the MOU, signed back in July, states that it’s the intent of the District and the Union to return to a traditional education program. As soon as it’s feasible and consistent with the applicable state and local directives issued in response to the pandemic. The overwhelming umbrella for all of us, is the guidance from not only the state, but the county. As soon as it’s safe, the Union and us agreed that we would rely on the metrics and the guidance from the state,” Superintendent Dr. Micheal Bregy says.
A ten-days notice was given to Union members before the reopening of school.
“Last Friday on Feb.12, the district sent a notification letter to the association that stated the following timelines for returning to in-person instruction. March 1 for TK-2, and small groups special ed cohorts at all levels. Then they had March 8 for grades 3-5,” an unnamed source from the Union says.
The District denies that there is a specific date for any kind of reopening.
“We have not announced any kind of date that they will come back. It’s really important that we take our first steps. Now, we have a green light from the county and the state. We have to look at our parameters. For us that starts with, what are the needs of our community, our employees, and our families,” Rebecca Starkins, Communications Director says.
On Friday, Feb.19, the Union and the District will negotiate the reopening of schools.
“The district has requested that we engage in negotiation about the return to school, so they’ve requested a reopening to speak of this issue. Our next bargaining meeting is tomorrow morning. Some of the topics that will likely be discussed include COVID testing, vaccinations and the transition to in-person instruction,” Castanon says.