By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Los Angeles teachers union and local education officials on Monday agreed to a plan for resuming online-only classes later this month in the nation's second-largest school district amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The deal encompasses new standards and work rules governing how the 30,000 teachers of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) will provide instruction to 700,000 students remaining at home when the new academic year begins on Aug. 18.
The plan, hammered out during two weeks of negotiations between the district and United Teachers Los Angeles union, is designed to avoid the chaos that ensued when the worsening COVID-19 outbreak forced schools to abruptly switch to remote learning in March.
"We have all learned from our experiences with distance learning since March, and we've applied what we learned to this agreement," LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner said in a statement.
Under the plan, age-appropriate class schedules have been created for all grade levels, from kindergarten to high school, including daily "synchronous" instruction by teachers -- real-time lectures through video conferencing.
Teachers will also use "asynchronous" instructional materials and assignments posted online for students to complete independently, a joint statement from LAUSD and the union said.
While the plan gives teachers the option to work from their regular classrooms, students will remain at home, with daily attendance taken for each class session.
The plan also calls for:
- small-group instruction, teacher-guided "peer-to-peer" learning, and individual tutoring as necessary.
- guidance counselors and other non-teaching staff to follow a weekly schedule of services and office hours.
- special staff training and professional development.
Announcing its decision last month to proceed with online-only instruction, LAUSD cited "skyrocketing" coronavirus infection rates and a lack of adequate safeguards to ensure student and staff safety in classrooms.
Monday's online-learning pact came as teachers at more than 35 other U.S. school districts staged protests over plans to resume in-class instruction while COVID-19 is surging in much of the country.
(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Aurora Ellis)