Jessica Cejnar / Friday, July 24 @ 2:54 p.m. / Education
Del Norte Teachers Assn. President Signs Letter to Local Districts Advocating Student Safety; Parents Asked to Choose Learning Preference
The union representing local teachers is in negotiations with Del Norte Unified School District, saying they want their members to be safe as officials determine what school will look like during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Del Norte Teachers Association President Marshall Jones added his signature to an open letter from teachers in Humboldt and Del Norte counties regarding safe school reopening. Released by the California Teachers Association on Tuesday, the letter raises concern that there are only five school nurses in both counties whose schools serve more than 22,000 students.
Jones said Thursday that the DNTA bargaining unit is discussing a memorandum of understanding with DNUSD administrators, but he didn’t know the specifics.
“Safety needs to be the priority,” Jones told the Wild Rivers Outpost. “Before the budget, it needs to be safe to go back into these classrooms. Personally, at this point I don’t see it happening.”
In its open letter to Del Norte and Humboldt county school districts, the California Teachers Association pointed to guidelines set by local health authorities as well as the state Division of Occupational Safety and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mandating reduced class sizes, proper hand washing stations, protective equipment such as masks and testing being available to students and school staff.
CTA also called for establishing protocols when students and staff are sick that includes communicating with parents, teachers and students. The union is insisting that districts provide COVID-19 leave so staff aren’t pressured to come to work if they’re sickand to conduct safety trainings for students and teachers.
CTA’s letter also mentions that the pandemic has highlighted disparities related racial, class, gender and socio-economic status as well as the “rural-versus-urban divide.” District administrators must take equity into consideration when making decisions, the letter states.
“Providing a one-size-fits-all plan will not ensure equitable access but will only serve to leave some students further behind,” CTA stated. “We call for plans to have multiple options that will allow academic and social-emotional growth for all students.”
In video addresses to parents and at meetings of the Board of Trustees, Superintendent Jeff Harris discussed DNUSD’s “continuum of learning.” This continuum is a phased approach based on Del Norte County’s position on California’s four-stage Resilience Roadmap and ranges from full distance learning to a complete return to in-classroom learning.
Though trustees decided on a Phase 3 model that would have cohorts of K-8 students in a classroom two days a week and learning remotely the remaining three days, officials have yet to figure out what Aug. 24, the first day of school, will look like.
Plus, according to Jones, the learning model for Del Norte High School has yet to be decided on.
Jones said staff continue to have an issue with transparency on the part of district administrators. Teachers heard at a DNUSD webinar on Wednesday that “band or choir in a traditional way” isn’t possible, Jones said. However, he said, this topic wasn’t discussed at a staff meeting with Tom Kissinger, assistant superintendent of educational services, just before the webinar took place.
“I give a lot of slack to the fact that things are fluid — decisions are being made by the hour,” Jones said. “As DNTA we want to ensure that if our teachers are coming back in those classrooms, that we’re protecting them and protecting the kids from us.”
Jones said he’s part of a reopening committee with the school district that has been meeting two to three times a week. Those meetings were broken down further based on technology and safety, Jones said.
Meanwhile, DNUSD is asking parents to indicate whether they want their child to participate in full distance learning or if they plan on their student being in the classroom as part of the Phase 3 blended learning model.
In an email sent to parents, the district stated Phase 3 involves having half of a school’s students attending in-person classes on Monday and Wednesday and the other half attending Tuesday and Thursday. All students will engage in distance learning on Friday and when they are not in school, according to the email.
Under California Assembly Bill 98, a budget trailer bill that defines distance learning, DNUSD must ensure students have access to daily contact with teachers and staff, high-quality curriculum and supports if they have special needs.