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