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Carlsbad Unified School District
The Carlsbad Unified School District and the Carlsbad Unified Teachers Association agreed to a memorandum of understanding, which sets Jan. 25 as the return date for students. Photo by Steve Puterski
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Carlsbad Unified, teachers union agree to Jan. 25 return date

CARLSBAD — A memorandum of understanding between the Carlsbad Unified School District and the Carlsbad Unified Teachers Association has set Jan. 25 as the day students will return to school.

The announcement was posted on the district’s website on Dec. 23, but the Families for Opening Carlsbad Schools may file a lawsuit as the district and union had approved a Jan. 5 return date several months ago. The date, though, was pushed back after a Dec. 16 meeting of the CUSD Board of Trustees.

The board must approve the MOU during its Jan. 20 meeting to allow schools to reopen for in-person learning.

Previously, the CUTA had agreed to return on Jan. 5, but one reason for the delay is not every classroom has been or can be outfitted with the appropriate air filters, according to a discussion at the Dec. 16 meeting.

“Staff and student safety and well-being have been our priority, and despite ever-changing conditions and guidance we feel we’re in the best possible state of readiness for the next phase,” Rick Grove, assistant superintendent for personnel services said in a statement posted to the CUSD website.

The MOU outlines safety and health protocols along with elementary schools returning to five days per week “when safe to do so” or no later than Jan. 25. Instructional schedules will reflect those of the elementary schedule with adjusted start and end times.

Grove, Nicholas Levitt, the CUTA lead negotiator, and Lindsey Gordon, president of the CUTA, did not respond to interview requests before the deadline.

Hybrid instruction will also be included on Jan. 25 for middle and high school students, where teachers who don’t feel safe or return to school being able to livestream their classes. Also, teachers will distribute videos to facilitate remote learning, but will not be required to do so after this school year.

CUSD Superintendent Ben Churchill said during the Dec. 16 meeting the county is not meeting eight triggers, also noting the rapid increase of COVID-19 cases. The county fell back into the purple tier several weeks ago, which was a sticking point for the union.

As of Dec. 16, 49 students and 23 teachers tested positive for the coronavirus, while more than 1,200 were in isolation due to close contact. Churchill reported. Sixty-two percent of cases in the district have come since the week of Nov. 29, he said.

“Even in the course of one week … the increase of positive cases,” Churchill added. “We’ve quarantined 209 students since the last time we met a week ago (Dec. 9).”

Scott Davison, who helps lead the Families for Opening Carlsbad Schools, said the group is seriously considering filing a lawsuit to force the district to reopen the schools. He said the district, and union, are incorrectly interpreting Senate Bill 98.

Davison said because the district and union agreed to the MOU doesn’t mean it will receive board approval.

“They are going to do whatever the union wants,” he said. “For them to send out this press release was very disingenuous. It was very clear the union and the district were working together before the meeting on Dec. 16 to come up with excuses for why we couldn’t open up on Dec. 5.”

Davison said a majority of the classrooms in question were at Sage Creek High School and Aviara Oaks Middle School. Another reason, he said, was a concern for a shortage of substitute teachers.

The district conducted a stress test in December showing CUSD came up nine substitutes short after a request for 35.

“That was the main red flag for us,” Davison said. “They created a falsified substitute shortage to justify keeping the schools closed through January when there was actually no substitute shortage.”

The group has also created a GoFundMe account for litigation expenses and to cover fees for qualified adults seeking to apply to a number of school districts as substitutes.

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