For obvious reasons we will not have Empty Bowls this year. Your Organizing Team thought this would be a perfect opportunity to say thanks to all those businesses (listed below) who have generously supported this event over the years.
If you are out and about or ordering take out in the next few weeks/months please consider throwing some business in the direction of our Empty Bowls sponsors. If you do, let them know you are an educator saying thank you for their past and continuing support of our Empty Bowls event.
I am going to send each business a letter of thanks and let them know we are encouraging all our members to support them during this tough time.
5TH STREET STEAKHOUSE
LOGAN’S ROAD HOUSE
OLD BARN KITCHEN
SCOTTY’S BOAT LANDING
TONG FONG LOW
CUTA Chapter President
Your CUTA bargaining team and the District met for negotiations on Thursday, November 19. Our goal was to refine and clean up the MOUs we have for distance learning and for AM/PM modified traditional learning and to complete the MOU we are developing for traditional learning with safety protocols when all of our students eventually return to our classrooms. Our current MOUs are scheduled to expire on December 31. We’d like to have these three MOUs complete and ready to be voted on by membership by the end of our next bargaining session on December 10, so that there is time for a virtual Q&A session for members and an online general membership vote. Because the situation in Butte County keeps changing, we want to have MOUs in place that would govern whichever model of instruction the School Board places us in.
Despite the fact that Butte County was moved to the purple tier, the School Board voted to remain in our AM/PM modified traditional model until winter break. Two new Board members have been elected and will join the Board as voting members for the December meeting, which I believe must be rescheduled from December 9, to December 10 or 11, because Butte County won’t have certified its election results until the tenth. How those new members impact the Board is unknown at this point.
Extended Leave Protection for Covid-19
CUTA’s top concern during the pandemic has been member safety. Since we have been required to resume our duties in various ways, we have tried to negotiate any and all safety protocols possible. We have not been helped in that by the non-prescriptive “recommendations” from the state. After direct safety, CUTA’s greatest concern has been protecting members’ sick leave in the event that they can’t work normally because they have been directed to quarantine, are experiencing symptoms and are waiting for test results, or have been diagnosed with Covid-19.
Working with the District, we negotiated expanded leave protections by building off of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which was passed by the federal government back on April 1. Unfortunately, the FFCRA is set to expire on December 31, and there is no indication that Washington is going to extend it.
We have developed language designed to protect members as best we can manage without the FFCRA and the loss of funding associated with it. The District has been a willing partner in crafting this replacement language and agreed to more generous protections than they initially proposed. In short, they listened to CUTA’s concern and responded. For most situations, members may perform their duties from home, be that classroom teachers Zooming into the classroom and directing the sub during the school day or non-classroom teachers performing other associated duties virtually. If a member’s duties are impossible to perform from home, the District will assign other duties. In this way, if a member must be home for quarantine, to wait for test results, or because they are positive, they can telework and not be docked sick leave. A member may choose not to telework in these situations, but they would have to use their sick leave in that case.
The bigger concern is if a member tests positive and is unable to work because they are too sick. CUTA and the District have agreed in principle that in the event that a member has a positive diagnosis and has medical documentation from their healthcare provider that they are unable to work or telework, the District will cover 6+ weeks (30 work days total) of leave for that member. Previously, we had negotiated unlimited leave protection for members in this situation but that was by using the FFCRA as a base. We have agreed to reopen and add back the previous protection level if the FFCRA is extended or passed again in the new year after the change in leadership at the federal level. CUTA asked the District to assume the financial risk of six weeks of leave to protect our members, and they listened and agreed. This version of leave protection will be in all three of the MOUs we are designing and revising for use starting in January if approved in a membership vote.
At the secondary level, if you plan to continue using Edgenuity during the second semester, be aware that your continued usage, no matter which instructional model we are in, is dependent on administrator approval. CUTA recommends that you contact your administrator if you plan to continue with Edgenuity. If your administrator does not give you approval, please ask what you could do differently to receive approval. The District has the right to approve or deny the use of a specific curriculum.
“Third Option” (virtual student attendance in an in-person class)
The School Board reviewed the extensive feedback provided by members in the CUTA survey that asked about the “third option”. In response, the Board said that the third option will no longer be available to families starting in January, whether we are in AM/PM or when all students return to campus full time. Although some members have expressed interest in volunteering to continue to use the third option, your bargaining team will be recommending that E-Board does not approve any waivers to use the third option.
There is one exception to this rule. Special education teachers may be required to continue using the third option because of the legal mandate to provide services in the IEP. In fact and unfortunately, it seems likely that this requirement may continue onwards past the pandemic. As we see how this develops, we will need input from special education teachers about how to mitigate the challenges this presents. It is another example of our special education colleagues being forced to shoulder a greater burden because of the threat of lawsuits. It was very disappointing to hear this, and we will try to negotiate appropriate support or help if we can get ideas about how to help.
Distance Learning MOU (online only)
If we return to distance learning, we will use a version of the MOU which we started the year with. There will have to be some minor changes, but the basic concept will remain the same. Teachers will have synchronous time in the morning with online students and asynchronous/office hours in the afternoon. We will be revising the 2021 version of this MOU in our bargaining session on December 10. Leave protection will be as described above.
Modified Traditional MOU (AM/PM)
This is the model we are currently operating in under the existing MOU. In the 2021 version, there will be slight changes to reflect the actual practice and intent of our previous negotiations, but it will be largely the same as the current MOU. We had to work so fast that we didn’t get all the language exactly right. For example, the current MOU says that the filter in a classroom HVAC unit will be replaced if there is a positive case in that classroom. We have been advised that there is no scientific reason to do this. Instead, we changed the language to reflect that the District will use the highest rated filters compatible with our systems (MERV 13s) and will replace the filters at the recommended end of their lifespan. MERV 13 filters are in intense demand currently, and the language reflects that this will be the practice as long as the global supply chain allows it. If MERV 13s are unavailable, the District has said they will use MERV 11s, the next best option.
We also added language requiring teachers to maintain seating charts, adhere to them, and provide them to the site administrator. This is critical for contact tracing. We have also added language that states that, although all meetings may be attended virtually by member choice with the exception of IEPs (IEPs do not have to be in person, but a member can be required to go to an in-person IEP if so scheduled), members will be expected to be available for informal, unscheduled interactions with administrators or as directed by administrators as needed, so long as the interactions do not surpass 15 minutes cumulatively with the same contact within 24 hours. The member may request to interact outside.
With the third option being eliminated, it’s important to remind you that the District has the right in this MOU to reassign teachers to online-only sections to provide instruction for families that choose to remain at home but not go to Oak Bridge. In elementary school in AM/PM, they may give you a morning in-person class and an afternoon online class, or they may assign you all online students who may represent students from school sites other than your own, although you will remain at your site. You will be paid for two days at your daily rate to compensate you for preparing to teach an online class. In secondary, you may be reassigned to one or more online-only sections. If you are reassigned to a different subject, you will be paid for two days at your daily rate.
One mistake we made when originally designing this MOU was not discussing the half-day sub-provided prep days in elementary school. We added in 65 minutes of daily prep for elementary teachers in AM/PM to reflect the loss of fine arts, PE, and music (where appropriate). Although we only discussed the loss of prep from these providers, the District assumed, and we think fairly, that the 65 minutes was also replacing the sub-provided prep days. The District simply cannot provide subs in the numbers needed to cover these days. The District made an assumption and your bargaining team honestly forgot about the sub-provided prep days amidst all of the decisions we were making. If it had come up, we would have agreed with the District. We have agreed that the 65 minutes of daily prep in the AM/PM model replaces the prep lost from the providers and the sub-provided prep days. If you already managed to take one of these sub-provided prep days, you won’t be docked leave, but the District will deny further sub-provided prep days. As a former elementary school teacher who utilized those days, I apologize for our oversight. We are doing the best we can in such a rapidly changing situation.
Lastly, there have been a lot of requests from secondary teachers to find a way to add collaboration time into the AM/PM waiver. CUTA will survey members to see whether this is widely desired, but we won’t survey about the specific schedule change. The likely change would be a shorter lunch period one day of the week with a few minutes banked from the class periods to add in time for a weekly collaboration. This is still under discussion.
Traditional Learning with Safety Protocols MOU (all students back)
At some point, Butte County will reach the point at which we move to a third MOU governing a model called traditional learning with safety protocols. This would involve all students returning to campus full time, but safety protocols including facial coverings and enhanced cleaning would still apply. School schedules would revert to pre-Covid times, and existing waivers would return. In secondary, that largely means collaboration at all sites and the intervention period at the middle schools. Elementary schools who are on minimum day waivers for parent teacher conferences would still have any remaining calendared half-days identified in the waivers.
Facial coverings and some enhanced cleaning protocols will still be in place. The extended leave protections will still be in place. The District will still have the ability to reassign teachers to online-only sections as in the AM/PM model.
Additionally, CUTA has an interest in protecting prep time providers from excessive student contacts in this model. Prep time providers could see anywhere from 700-1500 individual students during a complete rotation. CUTA shared an idea of how to offer a regular, daily period of prep time of 30-45 minutes by shortening the student day. In this model, elementary teachers would get significantly more prep time than they would using the traditional prep time providers and 7 half days (or the equivalent for TK and K). The District is considering the proposed idea, but we are still negotiating. In any event, elementary teachers will get their contractually guaranteed prep time, but the model of delivery may shift.
This has been, and continues to be, such a trying time for our members, our students and our families. Although we may be seeing the first glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel thanks to news about potential vaccines, we have a long way to go. I know you will continue to support your colleagues and our students like you always do. I feel lucky to work with such talented, kind, dedicated educators.
Thank you for taking the time to stay informed. If you’d like to explore our contract, the link is here.
Chico Unified Teachers Association
Your CUTA bargaining team and the District met for negotiations last Thursday, November 5. We continued working on an addendum to the current MOU, and we also spent time designing our next MOU, which will be voted on by you before all students return to the classroom in our orange tier model. The School Board decided to remain in our current AM/PM model until at least winter break. They want to continue to watch the case counts in Butte County and in particular how they are impacted by colder weather and holidays. If cases continue to follow the current trend, it is most likely that we will begin school after winter break with all of our students in our classrooms for the entire school day with facial coverings and certain cleaning protocols still in place. There are two new members on the School Board who will take their seats on December 9. They may alter the current dynamic on the Board.
The Board also voted to eliminate the so-called “third option” when we return to school in January regardless of which instructional model we are in. Students will not be given the option to attend in-person classes virtually. Instead, the District will create as many sections (secondary) or classes (elementary) as needed to serve the students who wish to remain at home but not attend Oak Bridge. Teachers may be reassigned involuntarily into an online teaching position and may have new students from various sites, but they will remain physically at their home sites. The District has agreed in principle to take volunteers for these online sections/classes from sites that end up overstaffed before involuntarily reassigning teachers.
We began the day by working on an addendum to the current MOU. We had to move so quickly through negotiations that we missed a few details in the actual language. For example, in elementary, desks and chairs are being cleaned by the District twice a day, but in secondary, desks and chairs are only cleaned by the District once a day. The MOU incorrectly says desks and chairs will be cleaned twice a day district-wide. We knew it was twice a day in elementary and once a day in secondary, but we didn’t accurately reflect that in the included cleaning chart. Similarly, there is language in the MOU that states the HVAC filters will be changed in classrooms with a positive case. There is no medical advice that we can find that states filters should be changed after a positive case. Instead, we changed the language to reflect that the District is using the strongest filters available--MERV 13s--and will continue to do so, and replace within the filters’ recommended lifespan, as long as the commercial supply chain allows it.
We are adding language that states a member shall be provided an alternative teaching/learning site if CUTA and the District mutually agree that a cleaning task did not occur. The teacher can choose to avail themselves of the alternative site or not while the District completes the cleaning task.
The addendum also has language requiring seating charts, which is a shared interest of both CUTA and the District, in order to contact trace effectively in the event of positive cases. We have added language also that gives members five working days’ notice if we are transitioning from one instructional model to another. This is in response to members who felt the last transition was rushed.
Another issue that had to be discussed is the District’s inability to find enough subs to cover the elementary prep half days. In the current model, elementary teachers are getting more prep time than they would in a traditional schedule with prep time providers and prep half days. The lack of subs and CUTA’s concern for prep time providers means we are discussing adding language to this addendum to reflect how elementary prep time would be delivered in the next model when all students are back on campus together. CUTA has an interest in protecting prep time providers from excessive student contacts. Prep time providers could see anywhere from 700-1500 individual students during a complete rotation. CUTA shared an idea of how to offer a regular, daily period of prep time of 30-45 minutes by shortening the student day. In this model, elementary teachers would get significantly more prep time than they would using the traditional prep time providers and 7 half days (or the equivalent for TK and K). The District is considering the proposed idea, but we are still negotiating. In any event, elementary teachers will get their contractually guaranteed prep time, but the model of delivery may shift. The District has a shared interest in this, because it is extremely hard to get subs at this time, so the prep half days are a significant problem.
MOU for Traditional Learning with Safety Protocols
Depending on the status of Covid cases in Butte County, the next instructional model we will move into is called traditional learning with safety protocols. All students would be on campus for a regular school day, so social distancing would no longer be possible as in the current manner. Facial coverings and enhanced cleaning would still be in effect. We have begun negotiating the MOU to cover this model. Much of our current contract will come back into place during this instructional model, including pre-Covid bell schedules and waivers. The District is working on how the cleaning protocols will change, but there will still be a focus on high-touch areas, appropriate HVAC filters, hand sanitizer and facial coverings.
A significant concern for CUTA is the sunsetting of the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) on December 31 of this year. This act provided sick leave protection for a variety of situations but was largely limited to 80 hours or roughly two work weeks. CUTA built off of this act to negotiate unlimited sick leave protection (no use of personal sick leave) for members who contracted Covid-19 and were unable to work. Nobody knows if the federal government will act to extend the FFCRA. CUTA is very concerned about full classrooms and no sick leave protection. We do have MOU language that allows members to work--even teach--virtually from home if they have to quarantine or wait for a test result without having to use personal sick leave. Although this would be far from ideal, it is still sick leave protection. CUTA has an interest in extending the unlimited sick leave for members who contract Covid-19 and are unable to work. Negotiations continue.
Covid-19 Employee Testing
In an example of the constantly shifting state requirements, Covid-19 testing of employees is now not required, but the District must offer free testing to all staff. The District shared information regarding the free testing center on Mangrove Avenue along with a suggested site-based calendar for when employees should go get tested. Please refer to the email from Jim Hanlon on Friday, November 6 for this information.
The District strongly encourages members to get tested following this suggested schedule. The goal is for all employees to be tested over a 2-month period, which mirrors the state guidelines. CUTA also strongly encourages members to get tested. To be clear, testing is not mandatory, but it is strongly recommended. Our understanding is that you may also get tested more often if you believe you have been potentially exposed. You will be asked for your insurance card, but you will not be charged. If you are part-time and don’t have our insurance or insurance at all, the testing is still free. Please review Jim’s email. This is not a walk-in testing center. You must schedule in advance.
Thank you for taking the time to stay informed. If you’d like to explore our contract, the link is here.
Chico Unified Teachers Association
Your CUTA bargaining team and the District met for negotiations on Thursday, October 22. We discussed issues related to the current MOU for the AM/PM model (modified traditional), and we began discussions on the MOU for the next stage: traditional model with safety protocols.
On Wednesday night, the School Board voted to remain in our current AM/PM model of instruction for the remainder of the calendar year if Butte County is in the red, orange or yellow tiers. This represents a willingness by the Board to slow down and give Chico Unified time to adapt to our rapidly changing teaching situations. In addition, they maintained their current position that if Butte County returns to the purple tier, school will return to an online-only model, but they reserved the right to evaluate the situation and change their minds. For example, if Butte County returned to the purple tier because of a major increase in cases at the jail, the Board might choose to remain in the AM/PM model because of the relative lack of connection to our school populations.
Based on the Board’s decision, we will be operating under the current modified traditional model MOU until at least January. We spent time working with the District to fix initial problems with the current MOU. We identified areas of concern from the survey responses and from members contacting CUTA directly. One of the largest areas of concern was the sense that many situations that arise at school didn’t have clear safety protocols in place. For instance, we identified the following broad scenarios to be addressed in terms of safety protocols:
For the shared materials scenario, it is impossible to create step-by-step instructions. For example, the protocols for the use of shared materials would be exhaustive and eternally incomplete as we discovered new and different situations where materials might be shared: lab beakers, paint brushes, clay, keyboards, pencils, paper, folders, markers, glue sticks, scissors, and on and on. The first step for most affected members will be to talk with your site administrator if you are unsure of how to safely use a shared material. If you are unsatisfied with the result of that conversation, contact CUTA and we will follow up with the District. Students may be asked to clean up after themselves, and a certain degree of common sense can guide you as well. You may also choose not to use shared materials depending on your comfort level with the suggested solutions or protocols. I have sympathy for those of you whose subjects are so deeply impacted by the major challenges of shared materials. This is an even more difficult teaching time for you.
The District has protocols for classes like drama, chorus and band, and they will have these posted in the FAQs in the staff room on the District website or in another agreed upon area. Expectations for students in common areas is the same as for the rest of campus: facial coverings, social distancing to the extent possible, and established cleaning protocols. Small group instruction may take place, but teachers should evaluate their personal situation and see whether it meets the established safety protocols including facial coverings and social distancing to the extent possible. Again, a conversation with your site administrator is a great first step if you are unsure. You may also choose not to use small group instruction if you aren’t comfortable with it. The District is releasing enhanced information about approved facial coverings: bandanas, masks with valves and mesh or transparent masks are not approved. Finally, the District has a strong deterrent process in place for students who have doctor’s notes excusing them from wearing a facial covering. This process will be posted as well.
As the District gathers this information together, they will work to post it in a central, easily accessible location. One option discussed was to continue to use the FAQs in the staff room of the District website linked here. This document is already 24 pages long and continuing to grow, but unfortunately that’s the nature of the situation we all find ourselves in. If you are unsure of a safety protocol, please talk to your site administrator, explore the FAQs, and if you are still unsatisfied, please contact CUTA.
In our current situation, there is a requirement to test 25% of CUSD employees every two weeks so that 100% of employees are tested every two months. The District has been meeting with Christy Patterson of BSSP to establish the procedures. Our current understanding is that the tests will be issued with an employee name and barcode, and the employee will self-administer the test and return the swab(s) in a sealed, provided container. This will be required. Employees who do not get tested when assigned a test will not be allowed to return to work. Think of it like the TB tests required of us. I believe the District is leaning towards organizing this at the site level--including delivery of tests, self-testing and return of the test--rather than having the tests mailed to employees homes, but it is the District’s choice. We are still waiting for clarification for when and/or how long testing is required. Although we are teaching in a “red tier” model, Butte County has entered the orange tier. How that impacts testing is still unknown.
Another safety protocol listed in the MOU is that the District will change the air filter in a classroom HVAC unit if the class has a positive test. To be completely transparent, that language came to us in an example MOU from CTA that we used as a model document and was included in the MOU without much thought by either side. We basically missed it. We haven’t been able to find any state or health department recommendations concerning replacing a filter after a positive test. Currently, the District has upgraded all air filters to the high strength MERV 13s. They are committed to replacing them within their scheduled lifespans dependent on the American supply chain. Many of our filters are custom jobs and MERV 13 filters in general are on severe back order everywhere. The District believes they have a sufficient supply to maintain their scheduled replacements. They also have large orders awaiting fulfillment.
Other MOU Issues
We will be adding to the MOU the requirement for all teachers to maintain seating charts and adhere to them. Although we recognize some teachers like to give students the freedom of choice, we need to have the ability to contact trace in the event of a positive test in a classroom. Teachers must be able to document, within reason, who was sitting where. Please ask substitutes to adhere to your seating charts.
The District agreed in principle that secondary teachers may continue to use Edgenuity for the remainder of the school year, including January to June, if they choose. Teachers may also switch to their traditional curriculum without completing the District developed form. Teachers may also choose to use some combination of their traditional curriculum and Edgenuity.
Some members were struggling to utilize the District-provided childcare because the start and end times were the same as, or too close to, the start and end times at their own sites. The District worked with CARD to expand the childcare start and end times to 7:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., respectively. The District has housed almost all of the children of members who requested childcare, but I realize this is cold comfort if you are one of the remaining few who have been left in an untenable position. Please contact Tina Keene regarding your position on the waiting list. You may also contact Kevin Moretti to determine your eligibility for 12 weeks of partially paid federal childcare leave.
We have heard from some members that they are concerned that it will be impossible for the District to accomplish the cleaning protocols established in the MOU. This has to be addressed in two ways. First, if cleaning does not occur it might be for one of two main reasons:
Identifying which situation is occurring is important.
Second, the cleaning protocols are in the MOU and so the District must adhere to them. If they do not, it is grievable. The question becomes: what is the remedy for a member if the District and CUTA agree that a specific cleaning task was not completed? There is no simple answer. Obviously, the member wants a clean and safe work space. The best we managed as a possible remedy is that the member reports the apparent incomplete cleaning task to an administrator. When CUTA and the District agree that a cleaning task did not occur, the member will be provided an alternate teaching/workspace while the cleaning is completed. This could look very different in different situations.
For example, a member might arrive at school in the morning and notice that a cleaning task did not occur. The member contacts their administrator who checks and sees there was an unfilled custodial absence. The cleaning task is completed as quickly as possible. The teacher and class (if applicable) may meet for a few minutes outside of the room or they may be directed to another classroom or open area on campus.
In another scenario, the teacher may report an incomplete cleaning task, but there is no obvious reason why the task wasn’t completed and/or it is difficult to tell if the cleaning task occurred or not. In this case, the teacher would be expected to continue working in their usual space until CUTA and the District can come to an agreement one way or the other. If they agree, then the above described remedy would take place.
This is far from perfect, but we haven’t been able to think up another, more appropriate remedy. The District has agreed to this idea in principle.
Volunteer Hybrid Virtual Teaching: The Third Option
By far the most challenging issue we discussed was the so-called third option in which teachers volunteer to allow a student or students to join their class virtually, most often while teaching a classroom of in-person students at the same time. Both sides agree that this is an inferior method of teaching. Both sides also agree that it is untenable in the long term. The disagreement arises in defining the “long term”. The District would like this model to continue when we move to our next stage of instruction in the orange tier: when most or all students are back on campus in full classes for full days. Your bargaining team’s initial position is that the third option should end when most or all of our students are back on campus in full classes for full days.
The District is seriously concerned about students leaving Chico Unified if they are not provided this option. CUTA shares the concern of losing students. Declining enrollment is financially devastating for a school district. CUTA needs to know what the opinions of its members are, so we will be surveying you once again. I know this feels like the year of surveys, but we absolutely must get a feel for your positions when we have to make decisions on short timelines. Please take the time to fill out this survey when it comes out next week. As we only take bargaining input from CUTA members, please remember to include your name. Kevin has had to delete almost twenty responses due to a lack of identification.
Future MOU: Traditional Model with Safety Protocols
In some ways, this should be the easiest MOU to develop, since many of our usual contractual agreements will return to normal. In other ways, it will be very challenging. If Butte County remains in the orange tier, we will likely return to school in January with full classes and students staying for the full day. Other safety and cleaning protocols will remain in place including facial coverings and enhanced sanitation.
If Butte County’s status continues to fluctuate up and down in the tiers and this anticipated “full return” in January isn’t guaranteed, CUTA is arguing for a week of warning before another change in schedule occurs. We may go into winter break quite positive that we are making that full return in January, but if we don’t know for sure, CUTA believes teachers should have some warning before it happens.
At the secondary level, we are proposing that normal schedules, including previously approved waivers, go back into effect. At the elementary level, we are proposing the same, even while recognizing that schools on minimum day waivers did not get their minimum days for parent teacher conferences. The minutes weren’t banked for half of the year either, but the remaining minimum days on elementary calendars will stay in effect.
We are also exploring options for our elementary prep time providers, who would still be seeing between 700 and 1500 different students during a full rotation. Elementary teachers will get the amount of prep they are entitled to, but we are examining delivery options.
I don’t know how many times you can hear that we are living through unprecedented times and that your tireless work with students is deeply appreciated until it stops meaning anything. I hope you can hear it at least one more time. Thank you for all that you do for your students and their families. You are truly essential.
If you’d like to look at our contract, click here. Thank you for taking the time to stay informed.
Chico Unified Teachers Association
Your CUTA bargaining team met with the District on Wednesday, September 23. We continued discussions concerning the instructional model and schedule to be used when Butte County exits Tier 1: Purple and enters Tier 2: Red. Currently, in Tier 1: Purple, in-person instruction may not take place with certain exceptions made for special education (subject to legal requirements from the state) and “bubble” cohorts of no more than 16 total people. When Butte County is in Tier 2: Red, in-person instruction may take place with safety protocols including enhanced cleaning, facial coverings, and social distancing to the extent possible. This model is called a modified traditional schedule. The process for putting this schedule into place will be the same as for the online learning model. Members will be surveyed during the negotiations, E-Board will approve a final MOU with the District, and membership will vote on the MOU using the same online voting tool used on the previous MOU.
Modified Traditional Schedule
Both the elementary and secondary proposed schedules involve cutting classes in half. CUTA is advocating for class sizes of no more than 50% of your contractual class size max. For example, in secondary, the class size max is 38; CUTA has proposed a class size max of 19 so that teachers don’t end up with extremely uneven splits (26 students in the AM and 12 in the PM, for example).
The proposed elementary schedule has two blocks of teaching time, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, with a block in the middle during which lunch, room cleaning, and some extra education services (special education, Title 1, speech, etc) could take place. Special education, Title 1, and speech services would also take place during the blocks, and these members would not be expected to have more or less student time than other members, though some use of online meeting platforms might be utilized. Classes would be divided into an AM and a PM group, and teachers would see ½ their class in the morning block and ½ their class in the afternoon block. In this proposed schedule, teachers would be responsible for assigning independent coursework for students to complete outside of class, but teachers would not be responsible for interacting with the half of the class that is not on campus. The amount of coursework to assign would be enough to equal a full day of instructional minutes. For example, if a 4th grade AM class was in class for 120 minutes, the teacher would assign roughly 120 minutes of coursework to equal 240 minutes total, which is the state-reduced required daily instructional minutes for 4th grade. If the teaching blocks were longer, the amount of coursework assigned would be reduced accordingly. Please take time to fill out the survey sent by Kevin Moretti to share your thoughts on this schedule and related items. The deadline for the survey will be Monday afternoon, September 28, at 5 p.m. Here is the elementary link.
The schedule proposed for secondary that is currently under the most serious consideration is also an AM/PM model. In this schedule, the periods would flip each day to ensure that students remain in the AM or PM and to ensure that teachers have a prep each day. For example, on Monday, teachers would see their AM students (before lunch) for periods 1, 2 and 3 and their PM students (after lunch) for periods 4, 5 and 6. On Tuesday, teachers would see their AM students (before lunch) for periods 4, 5 and 6 and their PM students (after lunch) for periods 1, 2 and 3. The schedule would continue to flip back and forth every day. There are two other proposed schedules. Please take time to fill out the survey sent by Kevin Moretti to share your thoughts on this schedule and related items. The deadline for the survey will be Monday afternoon, September 28, at 5 p.m. Here is the secondary link.
Additional Items Related to the Modified Traditional Schedule
The District is struggling to see how they can continue to provide childcare to members in the modified traditional schedule. With students back on campus, the rooms used for childcare will be unavailable and the CSEA members used for supervision will return to normal working duties. CUTA knows this is a major concern for many members. We have struggled to come up with ideas, too. The less-than-ideal solutions CUTA has suggested include:
None of these options are good, and, in any event, the District is still considering whether to agree to any of them or not. Both bargaining teams know this is a critical component of the modified traditional schedule.
Additionally, in our current online learning MOU, we have language that protects your sick leave in the event that you cannot work due to Covid-19 related reasons, including positive diagnoses, required quarantining, and others. CUTA has shared that this is absolutely critical to include in an MOU for the modified traditional schedule. This leave protection is in part linked to federal legislation that is set to expire on December 31. Any MOU we vote on will have a December 31 expiration date, as well.
Another factor in an AM/PM model is the allocation of aide time in elementary, especially in TK-2. It’s difficult to see how aides could be shared equally between AM and PM classes because of the challenge in finding and scheduling classroom aides. The District is trying to resolve this issue, but like many challenges faced in these unique scheduling scenarios, there may be no good answer.
Other issues have arisen that we are attempting to solve. For example, the scheduling of RSP, Title 1, speech and SDC in elementary school is very complicated in this model. At the least, CUTA can say that these members will not be expected to work more than their classroom colleagues.
There is no way that we will anticipate, much less solve, all of the possible problems in a modified traditional schedule, which is why both CUTA and the District will have the right to reopen the MOU for negotiations at any time for any reason.
Other Ongoing Topics
While Butte County is still in Tier 1: Purple, the possibility of elementary waivers for in-person instruction continues to be explored. CUTA’s position is that we don’t want to get in the way of teachers who wish to pursue this possibility, but no teacher should be forced into participating. The District shares this position.
California directives regarding in-person instruction during Tier 1: Purple mandate in-person instruction in special education in certain specific situations. The District is maintaining that they are trying to only use volunteers for special education in-person instruction, but they may be faced with situations in the future where they have to assign special education teachers to in-person instruction. While clearly this is inequitable, CTA has advised us that we can’t fight these assignments and that teachers that will not, can not or should not be exposed to in-person instruction would have to explore leave options. CUTA is encouraging the District to hold the line on parent requests for in-person special education instruction unless it is absolutely required legally.
California has also released guidelines for the use of student cohorts during Tier 1: Purple. These cohorts must consist of no more than 16 “bodies” (some combination of students and adults) who cannot mix with any other cohort, although there are provisions for students in a cohort to meet for one-on-one services such as speech. These are entirely voluntary, and some CUTA members wish to pursue forming cohorts. CUTA and the District have agreed on a waiver process, to be approved by E-Board and the District, to allow members to form cohorts. CUTA has an interest in the waiver having an exit clause so that it can be ended by the teacher, CUTA or the District, although the timeline is still being negotiated. Forming a cohort is entirely voluntary. If you feel pressured by an administrator or colleague to form a cohort, please contact your president, Kevin Moretti.
It goes without saying that these are strange, challenging times for all of us. Please find ways to take care of your mental and physical health. Things won’t always be this way, but we need to support each other more than ever right now.
If you’d like to examine our contract, click here.
Thank you for taking the time to stay informed.
Chico Unified Teachers Association
Your CUTA Bargaining Team will meet with the District this coming Wednesday. One of our main topics is bargaining the working conditions for members to be put in place when Butte County enters Stage 2 (which is now called Red?). This is will happen some time in the future when students come back in some kind of AM/PM model.
The process for approving a new MOU to cover this stage will be the same as the process for the first MOU that covers on-line learning while we are in Stage 1 (Purple?) in that you will all vote on the new MOU for it to be approved and put into effect.
Your bargaining team will be reaching out to you for feedback. It may be best to do this as a survey monkey. I just want to give you a preview of some of the topics we are discussing so you can start thinking about it before the survey comes out.
Nothing is in stone. We are just talking possibilities and there may be much better ideas out there we have not considered.
AM/PM - Two hour block in the am say 8:30-10:30 / two hour block pm 12:30-2:30. In between is lunch and prep while rooms are cleaned.
Issues/questions with this model.
Where do teachers go when their room is being cleaned?
When do SLP, Title 1, RSP, etc. see students? If they see the am kids in the pm block do parents pick them up at 10:30 and bring them back at 12:30?
AM/PM-Day 1 Half your kids in periods 1,2,3,4,5,6 Day 2 the other half, but 4,5,6,1,2,3. AM kids go to 1,2,3 on Day 1 and 4,5,6 on Day 2. Teacher gets their prep each day.
Impossible to clean between classes or even at lunch. If can't clean at lunch, should we shorten lunch to 30 minutes to get kids off campus? Should we shorten passing periods? If we do, does that give teacher enough time for a restroom break?
This is just a sample of what we are trying to figure out. I will try and develop the first survey today or this weekend. I'm guessing there will need to be several surveys as we move forward.
CUTA Chapter President
Your CUTA Bargaining Team met with the District yesterday. While we are not yet finished and will meet again this coming Tuesday, the teams did agree on several issues. You are not going to like the first one, nor do we. It was a compromise we were willing to make. You have the absolute right to disagree with us and vote this down.
Items agreed to so far either in writing or in general concept with further details being worked on are for Stage 1 on-line learning. I spoke with Jim Hanlon this morning. We should be sending out exact language of everything agreed to so far, as well as items still being discussed, some time this Monday.
I am aware you will have many questions. Would you please wait until the proposed MOU language comes out on Monday?
CUTA Chapter President
Your CUTA bargaining team and the District met last Thursday to continue negotiations related to the reopening of school for the 2020-2021 academic year. With COVID-19 cases increasing in Butte County, we need to negotiate an MOU encompassing several pieces: safety protocols at school sites, working conditions for online/distance learning, and working conditions for a hybrid/modified schedule. Butte County is now on the state watch list, which means we are almost certainly going to begin the year in an online/distance teaching model, so we have started with a focus on safety protocols and online/distance learning.
Although we discussed many issues related to reopening, one major issue arose immediately. The District believes that teachers must be on campus daily during the regular work day to teach in an online/distance model. In addition, the District believes that teachers with children should not be able to bring their children to their classroom during the work day. CUTA believes that teachers should have the option to work from home or go to their school site in an online/distance model.
In an effort to alleviate the obvious issues of child care that their stance will cause for teachers with children, the District is developing childcare options for members’ children. The exact parameters of this child care option are still in the works.
Additionally, CUTA feels very strongly that the District needs to recognize the same leave language that we agreed upon in our spring online/distance learning MOU, namely that if a member is diagnosed with COVID-19 and is unable to work, that member will be entitled to paid leave for the entirety of the COVID-19 related absence that does not come from their own accumulated sick leave.
There is a caveat to our position. CUTA feels strongly that the above leave language should be included in any agreement with the District for teaching models in which members are required to go to their school sites. To be clear, if members have the option to teach from home during online/distance learning, we don’t think the District should have to honor that leave language. But if members are required to go to campus, either during online/distance learning or when we return to school sites later during a hybrid/modified schedule or a traditional schedule with safety protocols in place, we feel that leave language should be honored.
There are many, many complicated pieces to these negotiations, but this is central to our return to school. CUTA is aware that a letter writing campaign has begun organically among members to address this issue with the District. Kelly Staley has said she wants to hear from members. Please email her and Jim Hanlon if you have questions about the policy of teaching online from our school sites, whether or not you have children.
We have a lot to get done in a very short time, and any MOU we create with the District will be subject to a member vote. CTA has provided secure, anonymous voting technology so that we don’t have to vote in person. In addition, CUTA plans to survey members about various issues in the coming weeks. Please keep an eye on your email if possible.
Thank you for taking the time to stay informed.
Chico Unified Teachers Association
Your CUTA president, Kevin Moretti, and I have been meeting weekly with the District since the middle of May. Our meetings have also been in consultation with the rest of the CUTA bargaining team and E-Board. We are trying to stay on top of the rapidly changing situation as it relates to bargaining issues surrounding reopening school in August. Because things are changing so quickly, this update may feel vague, but at the very least CUTA wanted you to know that we are continuing our close relationship with the District through the summer months.
First and foremost, the District is committed to following any and all health and safety requirements from Butte County and from the state. Currently, many of the suggestions from the state for reopening schools safely have been just that: suggestions, or they have been so qualified as to be almost meaningless as directives. The state guidelines are riddled with phrases like as practical or if possible. This is the result of being part of a huge state that is experiencing the pandemic at very different levels in very different places. Governor Newsom’s recent directive to wear masks statewide in public spaces is one of the strongest directives I’ve seen so far, but even it doesn’t mention yet how it will be enforced in local communities.
Many of you know that the District sent surveys to parents and CUTA members to gauge interest in various instructional models for reopening school. The District plans to send surveys out again since they recognize people’s opinions and thoughts may change as the overall situation develops in Butte County. Please check your email so that you can share your most up to date thoughts about reopening.
Speaking very generally, the surveys indicated that a large majority of parents and teachers wanted to return to traditional school or some hybrid version of traditional school in August, and that a minority, though still substantial number, of parents and teachers were not comfortable returning to school sites in the fall. Even this is not without caveats. Some parents and teachers likely believed that traditional school, as referred to in the survey, would include social distancing, temperature checks, masks, or some combination of these and other protections. The reality of instituting these kinds of protections is unknown, and they are not currently required by the county, though that, like everything else, may change.
This is all to say that we are working with so many unknowns. When you couple this with potentially substantial budget cuts to education, you can imagine how challenging it is to plan anything. Still, the District is making a valiant effort to get prepared for all eventualities. There are large teams of teachers and administrators working on possible elementary and secondary schedules.
Currently, the District plans to expand its online teaching program for students whose parents are planning to not send their children to school sites. There are online curricula for both elementary and secondary students, and the District believes that they can train teachers to use them in one or two short training sessions, which they plan to offer later this summer. One option being explored is to enroll students of concerned parents in online learning and selecting and training teachers who are concerned about returning in the use of these curricula. CUTA and the District have agreed in principle that teachers who attend one of these training sessions would be excused from one of the “teacher-choice” district wide staff development days during the school year or be paid $100. (The District may also offer voluntary training sessions for distance learning in the event that we have to close school sites again at some point during the year; these sessions would be compensated in the same manner as above.)
Matching students who won’t return with teachers who don’t want to return in an online teaching program presents a problem. What if there are more teachers interested in this online teaching option than students to fill the spots? CUTA shared an agreement reached in San Juan that established how to select teachers in this scenario, and, although we haven’t reached an official agreement, the District felt the model was likely to work in Chico Unified. In this model, the District would establish pools of interested teachers for elementary and for secondary. These pools would be chosen from in the following order of priority:
There are multiple potential problems with this scenario on which we are still working. For example, what if the school year started smoothly in the traditional setting and large numbers of students exited the online teaching and returned to the traditional classroom? What happens to all of those teachers? Additionally, imagine this model lasted for one year, and everyone was returning to the traditional setting for the 2021-2022 school year. Although I believe the District would make the best effort possible to return members to their original site and teaching assignment, pre-Covid-19, CUSD would never be able to guarantee this. Members opting for the online teaching model would have to realize that due to unforeseen circumstances, including declining enrollment, they could end up in a different assignment on a different site upon return to traditional teaching.
In addition to this model, which likely only applies to approximately 10% of students and members as of current survey data, we have to figure out what school will look like for the other 90% of students and members. We have a lot of work to do and a constantly changing situation to contend with. In the end, much will be dictated by the directives received from the county and state.
As for possible state budget cuts to education, the District is working up multiple scenarios to reflect the various possible state budgets, including major cuts, no cuts, mid-year cuts, etc. If you ever wondered what the District did during the summer months, rest assured they are working extremely hard to try to protect Chico Unified, its students, and its employees. This is an unprecedented situation we find ourselves in, and we will all have to take a lot of deep breaths this summer and wait for more information as it develops.
Try to relax and enjoy your summer holiday as best you can. CUTA will keep you informed of significant developments during the summer. Thank you for taking the time to stay informed.
Chico Unified Teachers Association
Your CUTA bargaining team and the District met for negotiations on Wednesday, February 26. We continued our negotiations about special education, innovative scheduling at the high school, and compensation, and we discussed confusing contract language about the student-to-counselor ratio.
We continued to work on establishing the parameters of the blended model of RSP students and mild/mod SDC students at the secondary level. In this model, mild/mod SDC secondary teachers could volunteer to become RSP teachers. Additionally, the District will no longer identify students as RSP or mild/mod SDC when they enter secondary; all students will be identified as mild/mod students.
CUTA believes teachers should have a full understanding of what the new model will look like so that teachers interested in volunteering can make an informed decision. We moved closer to a full understanding this week. RSP teachers, both existing and new volunteers, would teach four classes and have a prep period and a case management period. CUTA and the District are moving towards an agreement on a total student contact number in a day, rather than a maximum class size. This is in part to allow teachers to volunteer to teach five classes instead of four to lower their class sizes throughout the day. The District is also wary of setting a maximum class size too low for a brand new program, although they have expressed concern with any class sizes above the low twenties for this program, and they expect most class sizes to be much smaller.
The main development this week is that the District is willing to proceed using a memorandum of understanding (MOU) instead of contract language. Since an MOU is not permanent contract language, current SDC teachers could volunteer to try the new position next year, and if the program did not meet their expectations or other aspects of the program were renegotiated in the final contract language, they could return to their SDC position. Because of the unknown movement of students in a new program like this, it is impossible to guarantee that a teacher choosing to return to SDC would remain at their same site.
In addition, the District has not settled on a final date for SDC teachers to volunteer to make the change, but they plan to push it back as far as possible. E-Board would need to approve the MOU we develop, and teachers will still need to see the final details before deciding.
Innovative Scheduling at the High Schools
At our last negotiations session, the District brought the best offer they felt they could afford for the maximum student contact number. CUTA shared that number with members--204--and many people shared their frustration because they felt it would be impossible to convince two thirds of their colleagues to vote for innovative scheduling with that high of a student contact number.
After further discussion, it appears that CUTA and the District weren’t communicating clearly with each other. The District felt pressured by CUTA to provide a final offer on innovative scheduling. That was not CUTA’s intent. The procedures we developed to govern this process don’t have specific dates or deadlines. More meetings are scheduled to continue the innovative scheduling discussion. We will not be rushing to hold the vote at the sites yet. We will share information as it becomes available.
One new piece of information: The District has agreed that RSP teachers in a block schedule would teach five classes, two preps (like all other teachers), and a case management period. CUTA thanks the District for their willingness to listen to special education teachers' concerns.
CUTA and the District continue to share an interest in the stability gained by a three-year wage agreement. However, according to the District, the raises over the last three years, the state-mandated increases to the District’s STRS contributions, and increasing program costs, including special education, have pushed the District into a deficit. With many unknowns about the state’s budget this year, including a potentially positive change in the way special education will be funded, the District is hesitant to reach a long-term wage agreement at this time. Because of the District’s transparent and honest communication in negotiations, CUTA is willing to keep working on a wage agreement--for next year and the out years--into the fall so that the District can experience greater certainty about the impact of the state budget.
CUTA recognizes the District must remain financially secure by addressing deficits in their budget, and one option that we shared for a three-year compensation agreement involved splitting the new money from the state as part ongoing compensation and part one-time money. CUTA would like to continue using the per-ADA percentage increase to identify compensation increases. For example, in this option, if the per-ADA percentage increase were to be 3% for next year, CUTA would receive 1.5% as an ongoing compensation increase, and CUTA would also receive 1.5% in one-time compensation. This allows the District to use their healthy reserves to cover the one-time money, and they would be able to use their half of the ongoing increases to address their deficit over the life of the wage agreement. The District expressed cautious interest in this idea. We will continue our discussions.
Lastly, we examined confusing contract language that is meant to describe the caseload for secondary counselors and how and when the District is obligated to add additional counselor support. Both CUTA and the District agreed that the current contract language is confusing, but more importantly it doesn’t match current practice. We will try to write new language that correctly describes the current practice.
If you’d like to see the current version of our contract, here is the link.
Thank you for taking the time to stay informed.
Chico Unified Teachers Association
Michelle Bunch serves as Vice President and Public Relations Chair for CUTA.