Los Angeles schools to close Tuesday as strike goes forward; negotiations at a standstill

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The massive Los Angeles Unified School District will be closed Tuesday – and possibly Wednesday and Thursday – because of a planned strike by tens of thousands of teachers and other school employees.

“All schools across LAUSD will be closed tomorrow,” Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, leader of the nation’s second-largest school district, said at a Monday afternoon news conference. “Tomorrow will be a difficult day.”

Carvalho, who oversees about 600,000 students at more than 1,000 schools, expressed frustration with the union representing workers including bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers, campus security and teaching assistants. The union said talks with the school district broke down Monday and “the strike will begin at 4:30 am Tuesday, March 21 and continue through Thursday March 23.”

But Carvalho said there were no talks.

“I made myself available alongside my team for hours today, hoping that we would, in fact, be able to have a conversation for a whole host of reasons, some of which I do not understand,” he said. “We were never in the same room, or even in the same building.”

The district’s 35,000 teachers have said they will strike in solidarity with their colleagues, leaving the district little choice but to close schools. The school district is the second largest in the nation.

Carvalho, who also called the district’s teachers and support staff “indispensable,” pledged to be available throughout the night, into the morning and all day Tuesday to restart talks and potentially cut the three-day disruption short.

“My appeal is that as we go into tomorrow, despite the event that will take place tomorrow, that our partners decide to come into the room where we can, in fact, hash out an agreement, a solution, that will narrow the bandwidth of this strike,” he said.

“For me,” Carvalho said later, “one day out of school is one day too many.”

What do the school employees want?

SEIU Local 99, which represents about 30,000 school employees, wants the district to tap into its billions in reserves to provide a 30% raise and $2 per hour equity wage increase.

“We understand the frustration,” said Carvalho, who has been in charge of Los Angeles Unified for a little more than a year, “a frustration that has been brewing not just for a couple of years, probably for decades, and it is on the basis of recognizing historic inequities.”

But he said the district has made a generous and historic proposal, even if it’s not as much as what the union demands. The district has put a 23% recurring raise and a 3% cash bonus on the table, “in recognition of the contributions of our support personnel.”

The union expressed its own frustration with the school district, however, claiming LAUSD compromised confidentiality about the negotiations.

What happens to the kids? Los Angeles teachers, staff say they’ll strike March 21 to 23.

What can students do while schools are closed?

Students can login to Schoology to access activities and resources. Students may also request printed activities and resources from their schools, the district said.

A limited number of schools will be open to supervise students, but Carvalho urged parents to identify two or three nearby school sites that plan to be open to watch kids, given that principals may have to turn some of them away if too many students are already present.

“I do expect for some issues to occur,” he said.

In addition, a number of Los Angeles parks will also offer supervision, the school district website says. And the city of Los Angeles parks department will offer special programs at some of its rec centers. The Los Angeles Zoo will be free for students and $5 for adult chaperones.

What about kids who count on school meals to eat?

The school district has set up sites where parents can pick up meals for students, enough for all three days schools are closed.

How long will the strike last?

The district said the strike is limited to three days, so classes would resume no later than Friday.

Contributing: Tami Abdollah, USA TODAY

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