District moves to reopen school, BHEA files injunction

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Executive Director of Construction and Facilities Ken Haas disinfects the auditorium at Horace Mann in preparation to reopen school. Photo courtesy of BHUSD Communications Director Rebecca Starkins.

Defne Önal staff writer 

On Feb.19, Beverly Hills Unified School District released a statement announcing a physical return to school on March 4 for grades TK-2, and on March 8 for grades 3-5. In accordance with the local and state directives, BHUSD decided to support current reopening plans and protocols recently released by Los Angeles County Public Health Officials. 

The Adjustable Case Rate formally changed to 20, according to LA County. In the Teacher union’s MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) and Addendum, the Adjustable Case Rate for elementary grades is between 7-10. 

“We are looking forward to our elementary students returning for in-person instruction on March 4th (TK-2) and 8th (3-5). Equally, we respect our employees who have a medical accommodation and must continue to work virtually and families who decided to continue with distance learning,” Superintendent Dr.Michael Bregy said. 

The union sees returning back to school at the moment as a violation of the Teacher union’s MOU Addendum #5. 

“The union has filed for injunctive relief with the Public Employees Relief Board because BHEA contends that opening schools at this point is in violation of our MOU Addendum #5,” an unnamed source from Beverly Hills Education Association said. 

Despite the objections from the union, the district said it’s “committed” to following county guidelines, and that it is the reason why BHUSD is proceeding with reopening. However,BHEA leadership feel that the announcement was a “breach of trust.”

“BHUSD abruptly announced return dates that are in violation of our ratified contractual agreement. BHEA has been a genuine partner and this violation of our contract is a breach of trust. BHEA will continue to be active participants in the negotiation process and hope that BHUSD will continue to join us,” BHEA President Alana Castanon said. 

The Union wants to be more heavily involved in the district’s decision-making progress of reopening school. 

“Our members have done a tremendous job of delivering robust instruction during the pandemic and will continue to do so. Our desire to be heard and our concerns be considered in the decision-making process should be a given when considering the high stakes of the situation. On Saturday the BHEA Executive Board met and voted to approve the filing of injunctive relief,” Castanon said. 

The district claims that, as a result of LA County’s go-ahead, there is no reason why students shouldn’t return back to school. 

In a statement superintendent Dr. Michael Bregy said, “Now that LACDPH has given the green light, any deprivation of in-person instruction would be tragic for the families who are in desperate need of this. We equally stand behind our families who have made the decision to remain with distance learning.”

According to the district, the prioritization of returning back to school as soon as possible has been agreed to by both the district and the union in the main heading of the MOU signed on Aug.1, 2020. 

“It is the intent of the district and Association to return to a traditional educational program as soon as is feasible consistent with applicable state and local directives issued in response to this pandemic. It is anticipated that the return to a traditional program may occur in phases and may include remote and hybrid instructional and support models,” the MOU states. 

The district reacted to the injunctive relief filed by the union by arguing that the constitutional rights of students are at risk.  

“We are disheartened by this news. At issue is the fundamental Constitutional right of students to a public education in the State of California (including Article IX, Section 1 of the California Constitution). In-person instruction has now been authorized and the district has an obligation to the public to protect the Constitutional rights of students,” Dr.Bregy said. 

The union states that returning to school should take place, but with safety in mind. 

“It is important for children to be in school, no educator feels differently. The most important part of this whole conversation is whether or not we’re able to do it safely and ensure the safety of all individuals who will be in contact with the situation,” Castanon said. “As teachers, we want to see our students. It really, really does need to be safe. We’ve all made so many sacrifices. It seems like we should stay the course and continue with safety and science in mind.”

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