BHEA Votes To Seek Injunction Over Beverly Hills Elementary School Return Dates

Developments over the weekend portend a contentious week ahead for the Beverly Hills Unified School District (BHUSD). On Saturday, Feb. 20, the Beverly Hills Education Association (BHEA) voted to seek injunctive relief in connection with return to in-person learning dates announced by the BHUSD. Those dates are March 4 for grade levels TK-2 and March 8 for grades 3-5.

The BHUSD announced the dates in a late-evening message released on Friday, Feb. 19. Shortly thereafter, the BHEA responded with an update to its members which read, in pertinent part:

“Today the Certificated Bargaining Team met with the District. BHEA submitted a counterproposal to the District regarding the return to in person instruction, including language regarding Covid testing, child care, and vaccines. Work continued through the day and into this evening. After seeing only two counter proposals from BHEA the District has unilaterally decided on the return dates for TK-2 and 3-5.

These return dates do not correspond with the guidelines set forth in our Addendum #5 and we IMMEDIATELY sent the District’s notification letter and our contract language to CTA Legal services to advise us of our next steps and options.”

The addendum in question pertains to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the District and BHEA. Specifically, Addendum #5 states that in-person instruction for grades TK-2 will resume after the Adjusted Case Rate (ACR) of new daily cases of COVID-19 drops to 10/100,000 for grades TK-2 and 7/100,000 for grades 3-5.

That Addendum was agreed to by the parties in December and mirrored the metrics of the statewide Purple/Red tier system of classifying counties.

The present impasse arose when the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) declared on Feb. 16 that elementary school campuses in the county could reopen. Officials cited declining new rates of infection, and an ACR of 25/100,000 for five consecutive days. Despite the pronouncement by Public Health, BHEA maintains that the decision to reopen schools before the ACR reaches 10 and 7, respectively, is a violation of the MOU.

An update from the BHEA Executive Board to its members on Feb. 20 indicated that they had “voted to file for injunctive relief with Public Employee Relations Board (PERB).”

BHEA President Alana Castanon confirmed the vote to the Courier.

She also provided the following statement:

“On December 22nd, 2020 BHEA and BHUSD ratified an agreement regarding the process to be followed for students and staff to return to in person instruction. BHUSD has announced return dates that are violation of this 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. 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.”

The Courier reached out on Feb. 20 to BHUSD Superintendent Dr. Michael Bregy, who responded as follows:

“We were unaware that the BHEA Executive Board voted to file for injunctive relief with the Public Employee Relations Board. If this is the case, 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.

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.

From the beginning of this pandemic, we have prioritized the physical reopening of schools as soon as possible, this is reflected in the Memorandum of Understanding.”

A BHUSD Board Meeting is scheduled for Feb. 23 at 6 p.m., during which time the BHEA is expected to make a written statement. Vigorous public comment period is expected, based on extensive networking on this topic on newly formed websites, social media and private chat groups. This is a developing story.