Your CUTA bargaining team met with the District on Wednesday, September 23. We continued discussions concerning the instructional model and schedule to be used when Butte County exits Tier 1: Purple and enters Tier 2: Red. Currently, in Tier 1: Purple, in-person instruction may not take place with certain exceptions made for special education (subject to legal requirements from the state) and “bubble” cohorts of no more than 16 total people. When Butte County is in Tier 2: Red, in-person instruction may take place with safety protocols including enhanced cleaning, facial coverings, and social distancing to the extent possible. This model is called a modified traditional schedule. The process for putting this schedule into place will be the same as for the online learning model. Members will be surveyed during the negotiations, E-Board will approve a final MOU with the District, and membership will vote on the MOU using the same online voting tool used on the previous MOU.
Modified Traditional Schedule
Both the elementary and secondary proposed schedules involve cutting classes in half. CUTA is advocating for class sizes of no more than 50% of your contractual class size max. For example, in secondary, the class size max is 38; CUTA has proposed a class size max of 19 so that teachers don’t end up with extremely uneven splits (26 students in the AM and 12 in the PM, for example).
The proposed elementary schedule has two blocks of teaching time, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, with a block in the middle during which lunch, room cleaning, and some extra education services (special education, Title 1, speech, etc) could take place. Special education, Title 1, and speech services would also take place during the blocks, and these members would not be expected to have more or less student time than other members, though some use of online meeting platforms might be utilized. Classes would be divided into an AM and a PM group, and teachers would see ½ their class in the morning block and ½ their class in the afternoon block. In this proposed schedule, teachers would be responsible for assigning independent coursework for students to complete outside of class, but teachers would not be responsible for interacting with the half of the class that is not on campus. The amount of coursework to assign would be enough to equal a full day of instructional minutes. For example, if a 4th grade AM class was in class for 120 minutes, the teacher would assign roughly 120 minutes of coursework to equal 240 minutes total, which is the state-reduced required daily instructional minutes for 4th grade. If the teaching blocks were longer, the amount of coursework assigned would be reduced accordingly. Please take time to fill out the survey sent by Kevin Moretti to share your thoughts on this schedule and related items. The deadline for the survey will be Monday afternoon, September 28, at 5 p.m. Here is the elementary link.
The schedule proposed for secondary that is currently under the most serious consideration is also an AM/PM model. In this schedule, the periods would flip each day to ensure that students remain in the AM or PM and to ensure that teachers have a prep each day. For example, on Monday, teachers would see their AM students (before lunch) for periods 1, 2 and 3 and their PM students (after lunch) for periods 4, 5 and 6. On Tuesday, teachers would see their AM students (before lunch) for periods 4, 5 and 6 and their PM students (after lunch) for periods 1, 2 and 3. The schedule would continue to flip back and forth every day. There are two other proposed schedules. Please take time to fill out the survey sent by Kevin Moretti to share your thoughts on this schedule and related items. The deadline for the survey will be Monday afternoon, September 28, at 5 p.m. Here is the secondary link.
Additional Items Related to the Modified Traditional Schedule
The District is struggling to see how they can continue to provide childcare to members in the modified traditional schedule. With students back on campus, the rooms used for childcare will be unavailable and the CSEA members used for supervision will return to normal working duties. CUTA knows this is a major concern for many members. We have struggled to come up with ideas, too. The less-than-ideal solutions CUTA has suggested include:
None of these options are good, and, in any event, the District is still considering whether to agree to any of them or not. Both bargaining teams know this is a critical component of the modified traditional schedule.
Additionally, in our current online learning MOU, we have language that protects your sick leave in the event that you cannot work due to Covid-19 related reasons, including positive diagnoses, required quarantining, and others. CUTA has shared that this is absolutely critical to include in an MOU for the modified traditional schedule. This leave protection is in part linked to federal legislation that is set to expire on December 31. Any MOU we vote on will have a December 31 expiration date, as well.
Another factor in an AM/PM model is the allocation of aide time in elementary, especially in TK-2. It’s difficult to see how aides could be shared equally between AM and PM classes because of the challenge in finding and scheduling classroom aides. The District is trying to resolve this issue, but like many challenges faced in these unique scheduling scenarios, there may be no good answer.
Other issues have arisen that we are attempting to solve. For example, the scheduling of RSP, Title 1, speech and SDC in elementary school is very complicated in this model. At the least, CUTA can say that these members will not be expected to work more than their classroom colleagues.
There is no way that we will anticipate, much less solve, all of the possible problems in a modified traditional schedule, which is why both CUTA and the District will have the right to reopen the MOU for negotiations at any time for any reason.
Other Ongoing Topics
While Butte County is still in Tier 1: Purple, the possibility of elementary waivers for in-person instruction continues to be explored. CUTA’s position is that we don’t want to get in the way of teachers who wish to pursue this possibility, but no teacher should be forced into participating. The District shares this position.
California directives regarding in-person instruction during Tier 1: Purple mandate in-person instruction in special education in certain specific situations. The District is maintaining that they are trying to only use volunteers for special education in-person instruction, but they may be faced with situations in the future where they have to assign special education teachers to in-person instruction. While clearly this is inequitable, CTA has advised us that we can’t fight these assignments and that teachers that will not, can not or should not be exposed to in-person instruction would have to explore leave options. CUTA is encouraging the District to hold the line on parent requests for in-person special education instruction unless it is absolutely required legally.
California has also released guidelines for the use of student cohorts during Tier 1: Purple. These cohorts must consist of no more than 16 “bodies” (some combination of students and adults) who cannot mix with any other cohort, although there are provisions for students in a cohort to meet for one-on-one services such as speech. These are entirely voluntary, and some CUTA members wish to pursue forming cohorts. CUTA and the District have agreed on a waiver process, to be approved by E-Board and the District, to allow members to form cohorts. CUTA has an interest in the waiver having an exit clause so that it can be ended by the teacher, CUTA or the District, although the timeline is still being negotiated. Forming a cohort is entirely voluntary. If you feel pressured by an administrator or colleague to form a cohort, please contact your president, Kevin Moretti.
It goes without saying that these are strange, challenging times for all of us. Please find ways to take care of your mental and physical health. Things won’t always be this way, but we need to support each other more than ever right now.
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Thank you for taking the time to stay informed.
Chico Unified Teachers Association
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Mary Schoenthaler serves as Vice President and Public Relations Chair for CUTA.