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LA schools teacher travel ban snags students' field trip



File: Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines attends his first school board meeting in October on succeeding John Deasy.
File: Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines attends his first school board meeting in October on succeeding John Deasy.
Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

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The new L.A. Unified ban on teachers leaving their classrooms for conferences appears to be ensnaring some legitimate student field trips.

That’s what Daniel Pearl Magnet High School journalism teacher Adriana Chavira found out as she got ready for a trip to Washington D.C. with seven journalism students. 

“Our trip had been approved sometime in mid-October,” she said. They had raised more than $4,000 to pay for flights and hotel rooms.

On Monday, her principal told her the Wednesday trip was canceled because of Los Angeles Unified's recently imposed teacher travel ban.

“To be told, just a few days before we’re supposed to leave, ‘Oh, you cannot attend,’ was just, you know, heartbreaking,” she said.

Chavira appealed the denial. On Tuesday, top school district officials gave the trip the green light. Chavira and her students leave Wednesday.

"The last 24 hours have been very stressful but I’m very glad the decision was reversed," she said. 

Last week, Superintendent Ramon Cortines suspended “non-essential out of town travel and off campus” meetings until January.

“It has come to my attention that the number of substitutes teachers requested for professional development during the school day has increased dramatically in the past two years,” Cortines said in an Oct. 17 letter to all L.A. Unified schools.

Cortines said the district had received 770 requests for substitute teachers for professional development activities.

In a statement Tuesday, Cortines said he didn’t intend to impact students' field trips in imposing the moratorium on teacher travel.

“Therefore, the ban does not necessarily stop previously approved trips, and especially those involving students. My concern is the statistics we had of adults being out of school when the priority has to be the school. I want students to have these opportunities,” he said.

The district received two requests for exceptions to the travel ban and both were approved, said Gayle Pollard-Terry, the district senior deputy director of communications. 

"The travel ban’s primary focus is LAUSD employees — not students going on field trips," she said in an email.