The new school year for Coachella Valley Unified School District is right around the corner. Classes begin Thursday, August 13. The district and the Coachella Valley Teachers Association continue to negotiate over whether it should be mandatory for educators to teach from a classroom.
Many district officials believe teachers should provide virtual instruction physically from the classroom. However, the teachers association believes facilities are not well-equipped to maintain sanitation and safety protocols considering several staff members will be back at schools.
"As the District has stated previously, we have developed and implemented protocols and procedures to address the safety of our staff in all of our facilities. We have an ample supply of PPEs to safely have our staff return," Coachella Valley Unified School District Superintendent, Maria Gandera, Ed.D said.
On Thursday Coachella Valley Teachers Association president, Carissa Carrera said teachers should be given the choice while distance learning is conducted for students.
"If our school sites are not safe to have our students there, then I don’t understand how our school sites are safe to have a group of employees gathering there," Carrera said.
Although teachers will be instructing from their classrooms alone, Carrera is concerned with shared facilities like bathrooms, school lounges, and the simple fact that multiple people are coming in and out of the same gates at the same time.
As ongoing negotiations continue in order to form a Memorandum of Understanding between the district and the association, Carrera said there are some specific safety measures they are vying for that the district said it could not meet. She could not speak in detail, because of the negotiations.
"Let’s just say PPE and cleaning in general."
Coachella Valley Unified School District Superintendent, Maria Gandera, Ed.D. released a statement on Wednesday on the matter:
I appreciate the opportunity to clarify CVTA's concerns. Firstly, CVUSD continues in negotiations with CVTA to address the impacts of Distance Learning on their members. It is therefore premature to be discussing the results of said negotiations. Secondly, as the District has stated previously, we have developed and implemented protocols and procedures to address the safety of our staff in all of our facilities. We have an ample supply of PPEs to safely have our staff return. Thirdly, CVUSD is committed to providing a rigorous virtual instruction to our students when school begins in a few weeks. While CVTA and the District may not agree as to the best method upon which to deliver this instruction, the insinuation that the District is unprepared to provide the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of our staff is not only unacceptable but false. The safety of our students and staff is of paramount importance to CVUSD which is why the Board of Education approved beginning the 2020-2021 school year via virtual distance learning. We will continue to work with our committed CVUSD staff to provide that rigorous instruction to our students.
Another concern Carrera voiced is requiring teachers to return to a classroom, when they could possibly opt for leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. FFCRA requires employers to provide leave to people who are impacted by the virus. Circumstances vary, but if a parent does not have the means for childcare, they could receive two-thirds of their pay while on leave for up to 2 weeks.
"For teachers that don’t have child care, they can qualify for that leave so what happens when a third of our teaching staff has gone on leave because of health concerns or the child care concerns?" Carrera said. And then who’s teaching the kids? It just seems like it’s a fight that’s being fought just to fight. There’s no logic to it."
Carrera also said the district is vying to have teachers work in the classroom so they can be held accountable for doing their jobs. She believes, that too, can be done at a distance.
"I would say it’s completely a lack of trust," Carrera said.
If the district is unwavering on the issue, Carrera said the association will consider their next option, which could mean a teacher strike.
Meanwhilei n Palm Springs Unified School District's memorandum of understanding with its teachers association, teachers will have the option to teach from home so long as they give advanced notice. The board of education is set to vote on the matter on Friday.
Desert Sands Unified School District's first day of classes do not begin until August 19. Negotiations are expected to get underway soon.