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