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