Hills will reopen for in-person learning next week. Students in grade levels TK-2 will return on March 8; grades 3-5 will return March 9.
“We are thrilled to be moving forward as a team together with our teachers, staff, students, and parents to reopen our schools,” Beverly Hills Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Michael Bregy told the Courier.
The new in-person learning dates come after previously announced return dates of March 4 and March 8 were challenged by the Beverly Hills Education Association (Association), the union representing teachers. As set forth in the Courier’s Feb. 26 issue (“Teachers Union Files Legal Action Against BHUSD”) and updated on BeverlyHillsCourier.com, the Association filed for injunctive relief on Feb. 24 with the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB). The claim involved language of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the District and the Association.
An Addendum to the MOU signed last December specified the Adjusted Case Rates (ACR) of COVID-19 transmission that must be reached before triggering an in-person return. Those rates were not in place at the time the District announced the return dates. Since then, however, the ACR in Los Angeles County has dropped considerably. It now stands at 7.2/100,000, as opposed to 20/100,000 when the District first announced the March return.
In response to the Association’s legal action, the District filed its formal Opposition with PERB on Feb. 26. Over the weekend, the parties engaged in mediation, which resulted in a tentative resolution of the matter. That good news was announced in a Feb. 28 statement by Bregy.
“The District and BHEA are pleased to announce that as a result of a productive mediation process this weekend, we have tentatively (pending BHUSD Board of Education and BHEA Leadership approval) resolved to follow mutually developed new safety measures that will benefit students, teachers, and our entire BHUSD community.”
Bregy noted the push to provide educators with COVID-19 vaccines.
“We are aware that L.A. County is preparing to give BHUSD our first allocation of vaccinations for our employees this week and each subsequent week until everyone who wants to be vaccinated has received both doses. We have started creating a list to prioritize in-person elementary teachers as they are the first teachers to interact with students in the classroom. We know that many employees have secured vaccinations already and some have booked appointments outside of the District.”
Association President Alana Castanon emphasized that additional safety measures were crucial to the resolution of the dispute. In a statement to the Courier, she noted:
“We believe we have demonstrated that we expect the School District to honor its agreements but are pleased that this mediation has allowed us to work with the District to improve internal safety conditions and supports, thereby mitigating risks that would have been imposed by the new starting dates. The settlement includes access to vaccines, floor marking to enhance social distancing, PPE equipment and cleaning supplies, COVID-19 testing for staff, and accommodations for educators with higher risk health conditions or those who live in households with higher-risk individuals. BHEA appreciates the patience and support of the community as we worked to help ensure the safety of students, their families, and staff.”
Bregy cautioned that there is still work to be done for the return to run smoothly.
“As all of the elements we have been planning for months are finally coming together, there are still moving pieces. These include managing time for our teachers and staff members to plan and adjust to the new instructional model. Many are physically walking into a classroom for the first time in almost a year. Due to the shift from LIVE@BHUSD to virtual and in-person instruction, every elementary student will have two days of asynchronous work before the changeover happens. Asynchronous work is independent time that is not supervised by your teacher,” he said.
The Courier will report on the first days back in the classroom in next week’s issue.
“I am hopeful we can have our middle and high school students back very soon,” said Board President Rachelle Marcus in a statement to the community after the settlement was reached.