Natomas District and Teachers Reach Settlement

Students learning in-person on the Paso Verde Campus are joined by classmates studying from home via Zoom. / Photo

THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz

Updated 3 p.m. on April 8, 2021*

The Natomas Unified School District reached a settlement with its teachers union late Wednesday following two long days of talks.

“I appreciate all the community support and the teachers who supported us, the people who understand how difficult it is to teach concurrently,” Natomas Teachers Association president Brenda Borge told The Natomas Buzz.

The Natomas Teachers Association last week filed an unfair labor practice charge with the Public Employment Relations Board and asked that review of the case be expedited.

The union has agreed to withdraw that charge as part of the settlement signed last night by Borge and school district Superintendent Chris Evans.

“We are excited for the next nine weeks,” Evans told The Natomas Buzz. “We are very pleased the MOU was honored and NTA ultimately met with the school district to resolve issues in under 48 hours.”

At issue: a plan by the school district to allow all students who want to, to return to school in-person five days a week starting April 12, to which the union said it had not agreed.

Since March 1, teachers have been instructing students in person, in small rotating groups called cohorts, while at the same time working online with students who have opted to remain at home.

The settlement agreement reached between Natomas Unified and its teachers union eliminates all cohorts and allows five days a week in-person instruction to proceed as planned.

The pact includes changes to the previously proposed school day schedule and now allows students longer breaks, less screen time for the youngest learners and an earlier lunchtime.

According to the settlement, TK through 6th grade classes will end 15 minutes earlier than the previously shared by school sites. Families will have the option of an immediate dismissal at 1 p.m., a 1 p.m. dismissal and transition to after-school programs, or students get a third 15-minute recess at 1 p.m. and are dismissed at 1:15 p.m. All dismissals will provide a free grab-and-go lunch.

The settlement also allows teachers at the TK and kindergarten grade levels to choose to allow distance learning students to work independently for the last 50-minute session of the day with an “open feed” for teacher access. The settlement expands the second recess to 20 minutes to allow students more outdoor play time and teachers with 10 more minutes of prep time during the day.

The only notable change for middle and high school students is the elimination of the cohorts.

Example schedule to be adjusted to reflect appropriate start times and break schedules by site. / Source: Addendum No. 2 and Settlement Agreement MOU between Natomas Unified School District and Natomas Teachers Association

To date, Natomas Unified is the only Sacramento-area public school district offering in-person instruction five days a week.

Neighboring districts such as Elk Grove Unified and Folsom Cordova Unified are teaching students concurrently on campus and online four days a week. Earlier this week, Twin Rivers Unified School District started a four-day hybrid plan with students attending classes in person during the morning and those learning online from home in the afternoon.

According to a school district spokesperson, 49% of the district’s students have returned to campus while 51% continue their learning from home. Data indicates schools such as Paso Verde School and Heron School have a higher rate of students returning for in-person instruction compared to schools like Bannon Creek School, Jefferson School and American Lakes School.

“I appreciate the effort of the NTA negotiating team working through their spring break to come to a resolution,” said Fred Lavell, a kindergarten teacher at American Lakes School. “I am appreciative of more compensation, but teaching concurrently is not ideal. Students in distance learning with limited support will suffer.”

Each school site will develop a daily schedule that aligns with its starting time and will adjust break schedules accordingly, according to the settlement which includes previously negotiated teacher prep time.

The settlement also includes a $250 one-time payment to teachers so they can buy additional classroom supplies, as needed, for the last nine weeks of the school year. Teachers will also receive a 1% salary bump for the 2021-22 school year, a $1,000 stipend and those elementary school teachers who voluntarily provide office hours may do so one to five days a week, for up to 30 minutes a day, and be paid $50 per hour.

“This acknowledges the extraordinary efforts of educators to continue to educate the students of Natomas during a global pandemic,” reads a message sent by the Natomas Teachers Association to its members Wednesday night.

According to the settlement, the school district and teachers union agree to meet again by April 30 to review the 2021-22 school calendar and decide whether there will be a longer summer break than what has already been approved. Currently, the last day of school is June 10 and school scheduled to resume on August 12.

“I’m happy that I will now see 12 faces five days a week instead of six every other day. It’s going to be a challenge keeping my young TK students engaged for a longer day with the few options I have for ‘play’ time, but I’m glad nonetheless that it has worked out,” said Cherie Perez, a TK teacher at Heron. “I know the NTA leadership and the district leadership were butting heads, but in the end it’s for the kids and I’m glad we can settle on something rather than continuing the back and forth that isn’t good for anyone.”

A communication from Natomas Unified emailed today indicated there are four more chances for additional students to return to in-person learning as capacity allows.

*Article updated with new statistics reflecting the number of students who have opted to return to school in person and remain in distance learning and a comment from a second teacher about the agreement.

Settlement Agreement
April 8, 2021 Natomas Unified School District Communication


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