Natomas Unified School District and Teachers Union Reach Agreement for In-Person Learning

What school would look like for elementary school students during transitional, in-person learning. / Source: NTA

THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz

The Natomas Unified School District and its teachers union reached an agreement over the weekend which paves the way for schools to reopen for in-person learning.

“This is a complex MOU,” Natomas Unified superintendent Chris Evans posted on the district’s Facebook page on Saturday. “For now, the earliest in-person instruction will return is Dec. 14.”

A memorandum of understanding or MOU is an agreement detailed in a formal document sometimes used in emergency situations such as the pandemic which forced school campus closures in March 2020.

“We are happy to announce that on late Saturday afternoon, we were able to reach an agreement regarding a possible reopening to a transitional model,” the Natomas Teachers Association negotiations team wrote in an email message sent Sunday to the union’s 600 plus members. “…this was a labor intensive effort by our bargaining team to ensure that we created the safest and most responsible plan for members and students.”

Currently fewer than 60% of students enrolled at the Natomas Unified School District’s traditional campuses plan to return to school in person, the message said.

According to Evans’ post, the date in-person classes resume will depend on the state’s color tiered system and other benchmarks. The labor agreement, he added, allows family’s to decide whether students return to in-person classes or remain in distance learning.

“It includes the concurrent learning we have communicated about,” wrote Evans.

According to the email sent to Natomas Teachers Association members, schools may reopen on Dec. 14 — if Sacramento County reaches the orange tier by the end of November. However, if the county remains in the red tier through December, the earliest school may reopen would be Jan. 4.

The message goes on to say that if Sacramento County reverts to the purple tier for two consecutive weeks, the district will return to distance learning and will meet with the union about whether to stay in distance learning. On the other hand, the yellow tier will trigger a meeting between the district and teachers union to discuss expanding in-person learning.

“(The MOU) also takes extraordinary safety actions for students and staff,” Evans wrote on Facebook. “This includes a creative solution for 40 interim positions to allow certificated staff who meet criteria to work remotely for health reasons.”

Evans’ post added that the agreement extends the district’s labor contract with the teachers union to June 30, 2022 and protects jobs for the 2021-22 school year.

According to the teachers union email, the agreement also:

  • Includes salary increases for teachers for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years in addition to previously negotiated ongoing raises. Provides special education case managers extra duty rate of pay for purposes of getting current with IEPs and assessments.
  • Provides additional prep time and teacher schedule flexibility.
  • Provides teachers free COVID-19 testing and contact tracing and paid leave for teachers who contract the virus.
  • Directs the district to create a public dashboard which tracks school sites and the number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Creates Virtual Academy in fall 2021 for students who want to remain in distance learning and staff that may want to remain in remote teaching assignments.
  • Provides students with headsets that include microphones.
  • Provides teachers with a six foot physically distance space in the classroom; teachers may also request plexiglass barriers.
  • Limits the use of cameras in the classroom to what is used for daily live interaction for distance learning (i.e. zoom, Google meet..etc). Teachers must give consent for anyone to record them.
  • Requires students to wear masks, unless medically exempt.
  • Allows teachers to bring school-age children to work with them if there is space in their classroom.
  • Limits how and when students change from distance learning or in-person learning.
  • Returns school sites to traditional start and end times, with teachers starting 15 min before students.

The agreement does not impact plans for in-person learning at any of the independent charter schools operating within Natomas Unified, including Natomas Charter School, Westlake Charter School and Natomas Pacific Pathways Prep.

Evans’ message indicated the school district would be communicating details of its agreement with teachers in the coming days.

What school would look like for secondary school students during transitional, in-person learning. / Source: NTA

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