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By Julian Peeples

Shared campuses exacerbate health and safety risks

Keeping educators, students and communities safe during the COVID-19 crisis is CTA’s top priority as schools resume instruction statewide. Accordingly, our union calls for a moratorium on charter school colocations until the pandemic is over.

El Camino Real Charter High School in Woodland Hills. Credit: Salenology

These colocations, as mandated by Proposition 39, require charter and district schools to share facilities, which often means rotating the use of schoolyards, gyms, cafeterias, athletic fields, libraries and other educational spaces. Shared-use agreements to allow new colocations will only cause more problems during an already challenging time for schools to safely reopen physically.

“As unionized charter educators, many of us have intimate knowledge of the challenges faced by charter schools,” says Kyna Collins, chair of CTA’s Charter School Advisory Committee. “We know that there is a lot of work to be done when it comes to charter accountability, and as educators, we want what is fundamentally best for all students. Expanding charter colocations is already destructive to the educational system, and during this time, it is dangerous and irresponsible.”

“Expanding charter colocations is already destructive to the educational system, and during this time, it is dangerous and irresponsible.”

—Kyna Collins, CTA Charter School Advisory Committee Chair

Prop. 39 is a state law adopted by California voters in 2000 that requires school districts to make their facilities, classrooms and other spaces available to charter schools that serve students who reside in the district. This law has led to many unintended consequences over two decades with impacts on students and educators at colocated schools.

Colocations disproportionately impact students of color in many of our communities. Limited space means limited access to special education services and enrichment classes such as art and music. CTA leads the fight for educational equity, and ensuring sufficient space for rich and full education experiences for all students is a principle we must defend.

And with a currently incurable, highly contagious virus spreading out of control, charter school colocations place these at-risk communities in even greater danger — threatening to undermine important safety protocols like social distancing, wellness screenings, contact tracing, and other standards recommended by public health experts.

“Under normal conditions, these colocations can impact the learning conditions at both district and charter schools,” says CTA President E. Toby Boyd. “During this pandemic, such colocations are downright dangerous for students, educators and our communities. Our elected leaders at the local, county and state levels must act now to protect our collective health.”

The Charter School Advisory Committee raised the issue in response to the growing health crisis and charter school educators’ concerns that continued colocation during the pandemic poses a threat to students and their families. Additionally, with districts and educators juggling so much to address needs in this new normal, competition for limited space should not distract from the shared responsibility of ensuring educational equity and keeping communities safe, the committee said.

“Charter educators are on the front line and active when it comes to organizing around charter issues,” says Collins, a teacher at El Camino Real Charter High School and member of United Teachers Los Angeles. “We are a part of the union and are in the good fight with the rest of you to improve education for all students!”