COMPTON — The teachers union here has contacted local and state leaders to assist with the ongoing dispute with the Compton Unified School District on plans to reopen district campuses to serve special needs students. The action was prompted by the recent closure of one school site due to teachers contracting COVID-19.
“We have contacted the offices of Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Assemblyman Mike Gipson for assistance,” said Dada Aghboola, president of the Compton Education Association, the union for district teachers. “The district has issued a memo closing Longfellow Elementary School for 14 days, from Oct. 24 to Nov. 7, due to three confirmed cases of coronavirus, which is exactly what the teacher’s union has been fighting against.”
Dada said the CEA also reached out to the state Board of Education and Los Angeles County Office of Education and didn’t hear back from them but said local education authorities, are given the mandate to make their own choices on how to reopen the schools.
The Compton Unified School District planned to reopen schools on Oct. 19 based on guidelines approved by the school board in August. The district then pushed the opening back to the week of Oct. 26.
After community uproar, the district clarified which students would be returning.
“We are not bringing all students back,” school board President Micah Ali said. “We are focusing on creating onsite learning pods for students who stand to be severely educationally and developmentally impacted by virtual learning, specifically students with severe and moderate disabilities and those whose parents agree to their return.”
The teachers union says there is no reason teachers should be on campus when they can complete the same tasks from home like district in Long Beach and Los Angeles.
Parents of students in Los Angeles Unified School District filed a class-action lawsuit alleging the district was offering less instructional time to students and cutting the hours teachers are required to work.
“My daughter and the children of my community…they’ve been failed by the district,” said Judith Larson, a plaintiff in the suit whose daughter is in seventh grade at South Gate Middle School. “The poor education our students receive this year is going to have an impact for years to come.”
Parents in the Long Beach Unified School District are also calling for their schools to reopen.
“We just want our kids in front of a teacher, period. Not in front of a computer screen,” said Long Beach parent and protest organizer Mike Gallo.
Compton teachers still insist the plan approved by the school board contradicts guidelines established by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health regarding large gatherings.
“The district plans to bring back small cohorts of special needs students,” Dada said. “However, their plan is to have 14 people in a classroom when [the] County Department of Public Health says that there shouldn’t be a gathering of more than 10 people.”
2UrbanGirls asked if the teachers would agree to the district’s plan if they reduced the number of students in a class to 10.
“No, we are not because the students who are back on campus are still receiving instruction via Zoom online,” Dada said. What sense does that make.”
District officials remain steadfast that the safety of their students, staff and faculty are their highest priority.
“The Compton Unified School District has in place comprehensive safety protocols and a COVID-19 response plan that meets or exceeds Los Angeles County standards,” Ali said. “The county did not require that we temporarily close the school, but we did so in an abundance of caution.”
“Of the three positive cases (all employees), one appears to have been a false positive. The other two appear to have contracted the virus outside the District and are currently quarantining. Neither had close contact with other employees or students. Contact tracing has been completed. There have been no new cases reported.”
“These kinds of school closures are difficult for students and their families and interfere with our mandate and mission to educate the children of the community, but because safety is our priority, we will continue to be conservative when making decisions to address positive COVID-19 tests. Small, voluntary on-campus learning groups will continue at all other schools so the district can provide services to students with special education needs, English language learners and other at-risk populations,” said Ali.
As of Oct. 27, the city of Compton has reported 4,447 COVID-19 cases and a total of 78 deaths.
2 Urban Girls is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers the Compton and Inglewood area. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.