By: Marina Hernandez
On July 14, the Long Beach Unified School District announced that its fall reopening plan would be an online only model, at least from Sept. 1 until at least Oct. 5.
Then on July 24, district officials sent a letter to staff announcing the plan to have all faculty work from campus. “With health and safety at the forefront, we are planning to have all teachers return to their classrooms for the 2020-21 school year, beginning August 31,” the letter read.
But just four days later, on July 28, the district experienced a backlash during a TALB virtual council meeting where union members and other stakeholders expressed concerns about the district’s decision. Jill Baker continued to back the decision focusing on the district’s mission to improve academic equity.
As negotiations accelerated between the Teachers Association of Long Beach and LBUSD regarding the flexibility of teachers to work from home or at their respective school sites, parents were mobilizing on the newly formed Facebook page Parents for Teachers of LBUSD. On August 5, 2020 a two-hour-long convoy of poster-plastered cars paraded on the streets just outside of a LBUSD Board meeting in solidarity with teacher’s request for flexibility and safety.
With so much uncertainty about what the upcoming school year experience will be like, both parents and teachers have been concerned about Long Beach schools reopening during the pandemic. Many teachers have expressed concern about their health as well as a desire to have flexibility to work from home or at their school sites at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year.
Over the past weekend, 5,000 parents and teachers organized and joined the Parents for Teachers LBUSD Facebook group to discuss their concerns. As a result, over 300 parents signed up to participate in yesterday's car caravan to the LBUSD board meeting, to show their solidarity with teachers' concerns. Several also participated in the in-person public comment segment of the Board meeting, sharing their hopes and worries about the upcoming school year. "When I gave public comments, I was able to hear the horns and I reminded the Board of Directors that teachers and parents were expecting them to make the best decision to keep students and teachers safe." parent Jerlene Tatum recalls.
“The day of (the first caravan) was pretty incredible watching all the cars come up with their banners and signs. And it was all families and they were really serious about flexibility for our teachers. This whole experience has been proof that this community really cares and when we work together has a voice.”, states Allison Kripp, car caravan planner and a founding member of the Facebook page Parents for Teachers of LBUSD.
As of August 17, the TALB Bargaining Team and LBUSD Bargaining Team came to an agreement, granting a vast majority of teachers the flexibility to work from home or at their school site at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year. The TALB website has posted, “We want to thank ALL of you for the car caravans, emails, phone calls, letter writing etc. It did make a difference!”