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Tentative Deal Reached To Reopen LA Classrooms To In-Person Learning

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

Some public school students in Los Angeles could be back in class in person as soon as next month. This week, LA's teachers union agreed to a deal that paves the way for some 480,000 students to return to school campuses, but there are conditions. Kyle Stokes from member station KPCC reports.

KYLE STOKES, BYLINE: The agreement does not set a date for reopening LA schools. Instead, schools can reopen once all teachers have had a chance to get the coronavirus vaccine. The district hopes that'll mean pre-K and elementary schools can reopen by April 19. The deal also spells out an extraordinary cleaning regimen.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: We're going to just observe one of the classrooms here.

STOKES: District officials toured reporters around an LA high school, pointing out new air filters, new hand sanitizer and new electrostatic mister cleaning machines.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You do that times the whole classroom (ph)?

AUSTIN BEUTNER: So you do the whole classroom. You can do...

STOKES: LA superintendent Austin Beutner shows off these purchases because he's trying to convince parents...

BEUTNER: This is the safest possible school environment, period, end of story. I challenge you to find a safer school environment anywhere in the country.

STOKES: Convincing parents to return will be complicated. The winter surge hit LA's low-income and predominantly Latino neighborhoods hard. Plus, when middle and high schoolers go back to campuses potentially in late April, they'll stay in one classroom and still take their classes via Zoom.

MICHELLE ROJAS-SOTO: That's better than what some people can create at home. And I want those people to have better.

STOKES: But parent Michelle Rojas-Soto says she'll likely keep her eighth- and 10th-grade teenagers at home for what's left of the school year until June.

ROJAS-SOTO: I would much rather they have flexibility to move around and just have a break from the screen.

STOKES: That, and she's still too worried about the health risks.

For NPR News, I'm Kyle Stokes in Los Angeles.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.