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
Mary Schoenthaler serves as Vice President and Public Relations Chair for CUTA.