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March 8 Negotiations Update


Negotiations Update: March 8, 2021

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Negotiations Update: March 8, 2021

Elementary In-Person Schedules

BFT and BUSD met on March 5 to discuss elementary schedules. Given support from elementary members in the most recent BFT survey, along with revised guidelines from the Berkeley Public Health Department, the parties focused on creating a schedule that allows for five days per week of instruction for elementary students who choose to come in person. 

Results from the survey show that 61% of elementary members would vote to approve a five day model. In the direct ranking question, the five day model had the most first place responses and the highest cumulative score.

The five day model solves several huge challenges that were unavoidable in the previously discussed hybrid models. The most important benefit of the five day model is that teachers will be able to focus on only one type of teaching, either in-person or Distance Learning. BFT members expressed great concern about the possibility that they would be expected to do two jobs at once. Under the five day model currently being discussed, in-person teachers would not be required to do any online teaching or provide asynchronous online work.  Distance Learning teachers would provide remote instruction only for those in their class and would not need to create asynchronous work to support in-person colleagues. In addition, since students will attend every day, childcare challenges for teachers with elementary aged children would be greatly reduced. The childcare issue has been a huge obstacle to staffing any type of in-person instruction and this five day model solves that problem. 

Many details of the five day model remain to be figured out. However, some things are clear. The plan will follow all California Department of Public Health guidelines. BUSD is prepared to provide critical risk mitigation strategies that exceed the guidelines in some areas. These include: staff vaccines, (which are already underway); student testing; the installation of bipolar ionization units in all classrooms; and the provision of desk-mounted partitions for teachers who request them. The BFT/BUSD Health and Safety MOU will continue to apply as well. This agreement requires all staff and students to wear masks and to submit to daily screening. It guarantees PPE for all staff, along with an extensive list of other risk reduction protocols. 

Here are some things that are still under discussion. BUSD’s proposed in-person schedule includes more instructional time than is required by the state and adds significant amounts of supervision time to that. BFT countered that the schedule should follow current state law regarding instructional minutes and current contract limits on the amount of supervision that can be required. It is likely that the balance of time spent on supervision compared to instructional minutes may shift more heavily toward supervision than in normal years, given the need for students to maintain physical distance and for classes to stay apart from each other. BFT’s position is that the combination of these two types of elementary teacher responsibilities may not exceed our normal contractual workload. 

Some minimal realignment of class lists may be necessary if a student’s choice to return doesn’t match their teacher’s assignment to either in-person or Distance Learning, but with a large majority of students and teachers expected to return to in-person instruction, there should not be a need for major shifting. The vast majority of teachers should be able to keep most of their own students. 

Special Education and Intervention

Because public health guidelines require “stable groups” of students, Sped and intervention support staff will only be able to pull students from one class at a time. There can be no mixing of students from different classes. These individual or small group pull-outs should take place outside or at a distance of at least 6 feet. Push-in models are unlikely to be effective given the recommendation of 12 feet of distance when teachers are pushing into multiple classrooms. 

Case managers will keep their current students and will create their own schedules that allow for them to serve students in-person and remotely, as needed. All parties understand that scheduling will be challenging and that it will be extremely difficult to provide the same services that we provide in normal times. Special Education teachers and administrators all over the state are struggling with the same challenges. Despite these obstacles, BFT and BUSD maintain their mutual commitment to the Full Inclusion model. BFT is consulting with Sped site reps about how to address these challenges.

Release Teachers

Many questions remain about how release teachers will work. Under public health guidance, release teachers can work with multiple classes per day IF they are outside or in a space that allows at least 6 feet of physical distance. However, fitting the typical 45 minute periods into staggered schedules will be difficult and so far it is unclear how teachers will continue to serve the students who remain in Distance Learning. 

Music teachers face even greater challenges. Singing and playing wind instruments is not recommended. Since groups cannot consist of students from multiple classes, the typical fourth and fifth grade instrumental schedule for instruction will not work. 

BUSD has agreed that release teachers will not be required to work more instructional  minutes than classroom teachers, but they cannot guarantee that release teachers will be able to keep the same schedule of classes they have had in the past. This is likely to be a site based scheduling decision in most cases. 

Secondary In-Person Schedules

BFT expects to receive proposals from BUSD this week. We will inform and survey our members as soon as possible.

Next Steps

BFT and BUSD have sessions scheduled for March 8 and March 10.

For information or to offer comments please contact BFT  President Matt Meyer at


This Negotiations Update was prepared by BFT Treasurer Cynthia Allman and edited by the BFT Negotiations Team.

Berkeley Federation of Teachers, CFT/AFT, AFL-CIO

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