Your CUTA bargaining team and the District met for negotiations on Wednesday, March 24. We continued to discuss possible models for compensation, we reviewed the MOU governing a full reopening of schools in order to be prepared for any future School Board decisions, and we started to evaluate how our existing MOUs for our Covid-impacted instructional models will have to be modified for the academic year beginning in fall 2021.
We spent the morning clarifying and narrowing our list of possible compensation options. CUTA has an interest in looking at one-time money for compensation for the current school year, since we recognize that the District received no new ongoing dollars. Additionally, we believe a multi-year wage agreement for next year and beyond is the best approach. The projected increases in ongoing dollars to the District budget over the next several years are small, so CUTA also has an interest in several low-cost items related to compensation.
Additionally, E-Board has directed the bargaining team to make a final collapse of the salary schedule a compensation priority. This final proposed collapse would make the salary schedule steps between years 20 and 29 uniform two-year steps so there would be no more three-year freezes. The salary schedule would still end at Year 31. The cost to achieve this is equivalent to roughly 0.6% on the salary schedule.
The District will begin discussing compensation with the School Board at the meeting scheduled for April 7. In a normal year, these discussions would have started much sooner, but this has been anything but a normal year. CUTA appreciates that the District is making this a priority with the Board.
Potential Full Reopening This Year
Changes to the California mandated social distancing of four feet in schools were made suddenly towards the end of spring break. After the CDC reduced their guidelines from six feet to three feet, California reduced its mandate of four feet to a simple recommendation of three feet. In other words, schools could legally open even if they couldn’t meet the three feet recommendation for social distancing.
The School Board will meet on April 7 to decide whether to reopen schools for all students, all day, for the remainder of this school year. They have asked the District to prepare a list of pros and cons. CUTA will be surveying its members once again. Sharing your detailed thoughts in the comments section is the most useful way to get your opinion to the School Board members. Kevin Moretti, our president, will give them a printout of all the comments, although your name won’t be attached.
If the School Board decides to send all students back to school, we have an MOU in place that would govern scheduling, cleaning, and safety protocols. Enhanced cleaning will still be in place. Facial coverings will still be required. Your school will return to its pre-Covid bell schedule with all waivers intact. In elementary school, the students will leave 30 minutes before the pre-Covid end of the student day to provide 30 minutes of prep each day. Prep time providers will continue to provide virtual lessons supervised by the classroom teacher. If an elementary teacher is assigned to an online-only class, they would follow the schedule from our first online-only MOU, which includes 180 contiguous minutes of synchronous instruction and 60 minutes of asynchronous instruction. The District can direct the teacher when to complete the 180 minutes within the bell schedule. In secondary, teachers with online sections would continue to teach them. Schedule changes are not anticipated at secondary.
CUTA is aware that this potential full reopening would lead to some teacher changes for students in elementary school. Until the District finds out how many students will return from site-based online instruction, it is unknown how many students will end up with a different teacher. CUTA sees this as a major con for full reopening in April. Please share the pros and cons, as you see them, in the comments section of the survey Kevin sends out. He is sending out separate surveys to elementary and secondary members.
State Testing Waiver
California has applied to the federal government for a state testing waiver. If that waiver is approved, K-8 students will not be taking the SBAC test this year in Chico Unified. Instead, students would take an approved replacement test such as the I-Ready diagnostic or the STAR reading test. CUTA is unclear about how this would impact the status of the state science tests. Additionally, the District does not have access to an approved replacement for 11th graders, so even if the waiver is approved, 11th graders will still be taking the SBAC. Until the waiver is approved, school sites need to prepare as if they are going to administer the state tests.
Reopening in August
Although it is impossible to predict for sure, the current trajectory suggests that we will return to school in August with all of our students on campus with a regular schedule. We are spending time updating, refining, and clarifying our three MOUs so that we can be ready for any situation that arises in the fall. We are focusing primarily on the “Traditional Model with Safety Protocols” MOU. If all students returned to school in April, this MOU would be in use. There are areas that need addressing before a return in August.
For example, in August, it is most likely that elementary teachers would return to a regular bell schedule with prep being delivered as it has in the past. We’ll update that in the MOU. We will also have to update some of the cleaning and air filtration protocols to reflect best practices and the changing situation. The current MOU calls for MERV-13 filters in all classroom and work spaces. That is problematic in school-based HVAC systems. Although MERV-13s have greater filtration capacity, they significantly decrease the air flow in classrooms because the HVAC systems were not designed for them. Additionally, they have to be custom ordered and are very prone to supply chain failure. MERV-11 filters also have good filtration capabilities and allow for improved air flow in older HVAC systems. We will be updating the MOU to reflect this change. The District will continue to clean and disinfect classrooms, and they will continue to provide hand sanitizer in all classrooms and other current locations.
Although I really hope we don’t have to go back to an AM/PM model or to online-only instruction, we are refining and updating those MOUs as well so that we are ready for any situation during the 2021-22 school year.
Thank you for taking the time to stay informed. If you’d like to look at our contract, here is the link.
Chico Unified Teachers Association
Mary Schoenthaler serves as Vice President and Public Relations Chair for CUTA.