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Los Angeles Teachers Return To Class

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Now to Los Angeles, where it is the first day of school all over again. Tens of thousands of teachers are back in their classrooms after a six-day strike in the nation's second-largest school district. As Saul Gonzalez of member station KCRW reports, he visited one school where parents, teachers and administrators were all eager to get back to normal.

JUMIE SUGAHARA: Hi. Good morning. How are you? All right. Thank you.

SAUL GONZALEZ, BYLINE: At LA's Glassell Park Elementary School this morning, Principal Jumie Sugahara greeted parents as they dropped off their children. Today was the first regular school day in the wake of the teacher strike.

SUGAHARA: OK, kids. (Speaking Spanish). Bye.

GONZALEZ: Sugahara says she was ready for normal classes to resume at her largely Latino, 350-student campus.

SUGAHARA: I'm actually very happy. I'm very happy. It's nice. It's like having your family back together. The family's come back home.

GONZALEZ: Pre-K teacher Georgina Ramirez was thinking about what to tell her students after more than a week of picketing instead of teaching.

GEORGINA RAMIREZ: I keep just going back and forth. What do I tell them? I just want to hug them (laughter) and say, we're back (laughter) - and just hug them. That's the truth.

GONZALEZ: More than 30,000 members of LA's teachers union went on strike last week demanding smaller class sizes and more support staff like nurses. Many Los Angeles schools, including Glassell Elementary, only have a nurse once a week. After marathon bargaining sessions facilitated by LA's mayor, the district and union reached a deal. The teachers got a 6 percent retroactive salary increase and promises to reduce class sizes and hire a lot more librarians, counselors and those nurses.

CARANTINA ALDERETE: Let's hope that everything gets better, and we start seeing the smaller sizes. We start seeing everything that the kids deserve.

GONZALEZ: That's parent Carantina Alderete. She strongly supported the teachers during the strike and is cautiously optimistic about the agreement.

ALDERETE: But we'll go day by day and keep supporting the teachers because they're important.

GONZALEZ: But many questions remain, like how the financially strapped school system is going to pay for the new hires and class-size reductions. The teachers union and the school district say they'll work together to get more education money from the state of California.

SUGAHARA: Hi. Good morning. How are you?

GONZALEZ: Principal Sugahara says she hopes the new agreement means more resources for her school.

SUGAHARA: There are a lot of families that go through trauma, so we need more in terms of social, emotional support. Good morning. How are you? Hi, Alexa (ph). Hi, Nate (ph). Thank you. So I think it varies. I think every school is different. I think that for our school, we would benefit from a five-day-a-week nurse. That would benefit us.

GONZALEZ: And Glassell Elementary should eventually get that. The new agreement provides for a full-time nurse in every school. But the deal isn't fully approved yet. The LA Unified School Board is expected to finalize it next week. For NPR News, I'm Saul Gonzalez in Los Angeles.

(SOUNDBITE OF BUSHY'S "THERE'S A LIGHT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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