L.A. schools finally have a clear reopening plan. Here is what you need to know

A grandmother stands with her two young grandsons outside their home.
Lydia Friend, activist and grandmother to two fifth-graders who attend LAUSD schools, is advocating for schools to reopen.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

A plan to finally reopen Los Angeles schools is coming into clearer view. It would mean a return to campus, but school life will feel very different.

Here is what we know:

The agreement, which must be ratified by union members, would set up a combination of in-person and online learning.

March 9, 2021

The basics

A tentative agreement reached Tuesday between the teachers union and the L.A. Unified School District offers the clearest framework yet for reopening campuses for students in elementary, middle and high schools.


The agreement, which must be ratified by members, establishes safety parameters for a return to campus and lays out a markedly different schedule, which still relies heavily on online learning. The school day would unfold under a so-called hybrid format — meaning students would conduct their studies on campus during part of the week and continue with their schooling online at other times.


Although the union has not yet signed off on the exact date of return, the school district is aiming to restart elementary schools on April 19.

Middle and high schools would open later in April or early in May, according to a district source who was not authorized to speak on the record.


Under the deal, teachers would not have to return to work until they have had access to COVID-19 vaccinations and have achieved maximum immunity — a period of up to six weeks.

Another condition for a return is that Los Angeles County enter the “red” tier in California’s color-coded reopening blueprint, which would mean the county is one step improved from the “purple” tier, which has the most severe restrictions and indicates widespread coronavirus infection in the community. That parameter appears to be within reach, as the county is expected to leave the purple tier within days.

What the school day would look like

At the elementary-school level, students would be on campus five days a week in either a morning or early-afternoon session. The staggered schedule would allow for smaller classes, in keeping with state recommendations to keep students at least six feet apart.

Middle and high schools would resume with even starker changes. Students would attend two days a week on a staggered schedule. But instead of moving from class to class, they would remain in their advisory classroom — similar to a homeroom base — for the full day.


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From their advisory class, students would carry out distance learning essentially as they are doing now; they would be trading online-from-home for online-from-a-classroom under the supervision of a teacher. Students would then “move” from class to class online — as they are doing now at home.

Advisory teachers would have their own schedule of classes — which they would conduct from school, but not necessarily to the students in front of them. To avoid mutual distraction, students would be provided with noise-canceling headsets.

During one period a day, the headsets would come off, and the teacher and students would work together on assignments and activities that are not part of the core academic work. These activities would include a focus on students’ social and emotional well-being.

For the most part, however, secondary students will not have in-person instruction even when they are on campus.

A COVID-19 Compliance Task Force will be formed at every school. It would address health and safety compliance issues as they arise.


Opt out

Families would retain the option of keeping students in distance learning full time.

Parents have voiced a range of opinions about reopening: Participants at one rally urged a go-slow approach, while those at some other rallies demanded a resumption of in-person instruction. Communities hit harder by the pandemic — areas that are home to most of the district’s students — have been more reluctant to return quickly, according to surveys in L.A. Unified and other area school systems.

A widely followed school-reopening tracker puts California last among the 50 states in the pace of campus reopenings.