LBUSD, teachers reach deal on working from home after contentious negotiations

After several weeks of often heated deliberation, the Long Beach Unified School District and the Teachers Association of Long Beach reached a tentative agreement for the 2020-21 school year late Monday evening.

After a long fight over where teachers will be working, the district will allow teachers to teach from home while students are learning virtually, which will be the case from the start of school on Sept. 1 until at least Oct. 5.

“The vast majority of our members will be granted flexibility on where they are eligible to teach,” according to a bargaining update from TALB president Christine Kelly.

Whether teachers would be allowed to work from home had become a particular point of contention as the union and school district tried to agree on a plan for the school year upended by COVID-19.

The educators called it a safety issue and TALB even threatened a strike. The district, meanwhile, insisted that work location was not a topic covered in the union’s collective bargaining agreement. It also pointed to a survey that found some teachers had internet or technology difficulties at home.

The issue inspired some teachers and parents to protest. At the beginning of Monday’s marathon negotiating session, a large car caravan of teachers and parents honked horns outside the district administration building.

Teachers and parents rallied before a LBUSD school board meeting demanding teachers be allowed to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Crystal Niebla.

It’s unclear how many teachers will end up working from home or from the classroom.

“The tentative agreement includes the option for members of the bargaining unit to work from an alternate work location,” reads the bargaining update on the LBUSD website. “Bargaining unit members who choose an alternate work location would be required to sign and submit an alternate workplace agreement.”

Despite winning on working from home, the agreement Monday evening was not everything teachers were hoping for.

“This is not a perfect (Memorandum of Understanding),” said Kelly in her bargaining update. Teachers will continue to ask for less time teaching “synchronously,” meaning live teaching.

Still, with workplace location settled, there’s reason to expect an MOU will be hammered out and signed soon. The TALB executive board will vote on it Tuesday evening, likely giving a clearer picture of how fall classes will look.

Also part of the tentative agreement is two weeks of minimum days to start the school year, allowing additional lesson planning time and training on the new Canvas learning management system for teachers.

“The past six weeks have been spent listening, responding, discussing, and sharing all of the perspectives that have been shared with us,” LBUSD superintendent Jill Baker wrote in an email to staff. “I am happy to report that we have reached a tentative agreement with the Teachers Association of Long Beach on our Opening of School Memorandum of Understanding.”

Baker went on to write, “I hope the agreements that were reached will now allow each of us to immerse ourselves in the task that lies ahead—connecting with and nurturing the lives of our 70,000-plus students.”

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