UTLA protests against LAUSD’s decisions during the Saddleridge Brush Fire

The Saddleridge Brush Fire led to poor air quality and unpleasant smells throughout areas of the Valley. LAUSD, however, chose to continue instruction.


National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

A satellite image from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) showing the Saddleridge brush fire.

By Mhar Tenorio and Ani Tutunjyan

United Teachers Los Angeles fires back at Los Angeles Unified School District in what they claimed was a lack of leadership to how the district responded with the Saddleridge brush fire. 

Students, parents and staff members were awoken Friday, Oct. 11 with a brush fire near Porter Ranch and Granada Hills. 

Smoke and ash from the fire led to poor air quality, with the South Coast Air Quality Management District issuing an advisory prompting people to stay indoors as much as possible from Friday through Monday, Oct. 14. 

The fire prompted LAUSD to cancel schools nearby Granada Hills and on Friday. Most schools in other areas of the district, including Van Nuys High School, however, remained open.

It was not until around 9 AM that the district announced that they would cancel instruction throughout all schools, prompting students to leave at around 12:30 PM. 

“That the district didn’t reflects a lack of understanding of schools, a disregard for student and employee health, and a willingness to confuse parents,” stated UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl on Friday, Oct. 11 in a press release statement. 

“The district needed real leadership today—and we didn’t get it.” 

On Sunday, however, LAUSD announced that all of its schools will open on Monday, Oct. 14.

“Maintenance crews worked this weekend to replace air filters and clean the campuses that were affected by the fires so they will be ready when classes resume tomorrow morning,” stated LAUSD in a tweet announcing the return of classroom instruction.

UTLA stated that this is not the case, however. 

UTLA claimed that staff and students from Van Gogh Elementary School, located in Granada Hills and one of the schools that closed for the whole day on Friday, saw unsanitary conditions upon return. Ash and black particles filled desks and classroom floors while the smell of smoke remained. 

The teacher’s union expressed their further disappointment in the district’s actions, or lack thereof. 

Along with parents and teachers, UTLA rallied outside the elementary school the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 15.

“There is a troubling disconnect between LAUSD leadership and the situation on the ground that must be addressed, or bad decisions will continue to be made.” stated UTLA in a press release statement. 

As of Monday, the fire has been 43% contained and all evacuation orders have been lifted. All LAUSD schools continue to resume instruction.