Your PAT Bargaining Team met with PPS on Thursday, February 4th (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4) to review the District’s response to the PAT “Community Support” proposals, to listen to a report from PPS regarding the current state of ventilation and indoor air quality in PPS buildings, and to begin a discussion of the PPS plan for a return to in-person instruction.
Your Team is pleased to announce that the District has finally agreed to the PAT proposal regarding substitute educator support for students who are facing difficulties fully engaging in Comprehensive Distance Learning. The finalized language gives PAT professional educators the ability to work with building administration to assign a fully trained and licensed substitute educator to work with particular students. It has taken since August of 2020 to get PPS to agree to such a commonsense and needed proposal, but on Thursday we finally broke through. If you believe that one or more of your students would benefit from additional support beyond what is available in your school, please email your building administrator with a request for the support of a substitute educator.
Although the final community support language is not what we all know PPS should and could be doing to help the students and families we serve, the language does create joint agreements that will assist Portland families get the services they deserve.
The District’s presentation regarding indoor air quality safeguards and ventilation capacity was vague at best. At this time we are reviewing district documents and statements to get a better picture about the health of the approximately 80 PPS school buildings.
After the ventilation discussion was finished and agreements for community support were reached, PAT directly asked the PPS team to explain its plan to transition into an in-person educational model. The resulting discussion was distressing. PPS announced that it intends PAT members to provide both in-person and distance learning simultaneously, in a plan it calls a “Simulcast” model. PPS intends this “Simulcast” model to begin around the start of the fourth quarter. When asked what districts they are drawing their inspiration from or where such a model is working well to serve students, no one on the District’s bargaining team could reference a single example.
PPS intends PAT members to make sure that students are engaged in in-person instruction, while at the same time making sure students watching the lessons via video are also fully engaged. No details were provided as to how precisely students viewing instruction remotely would participate beyond being passive observers of instruction. The district plan is currently set to begin some time in April, when there will only be a few weeks of the school year remaining. What isn’t clear is how PPS believes it’s plan will actually be successful for students.
The “Simulcast” plan will give parents the choice to have their elementary school students attend school in a hybrid model or to attend school in a fully CDL model. The hybrid plan contends that some students will attend school four days a week for core subjects and then attend online classes for science, social studies, and electives. While that hybrid model is in place the plan also enables some students to remain in a fully CDL model. Those students will receive all of their instruction online, half of the day watching classes in which some of their peers are actually in an in-person model. From district official’s comments, it seems that educators will need to stay in front of a camera to meet the needs of the students in CDL, but also manage a class of online students. Educators will need to be focused on CDL students AND in-person students at the same time.
Your PAT Team is concerned that the District’s plan creates an instant opportunity gap. It appears that students who are in a CDL model will not receive an education equal to those in the District’s version of a Hybrid model of instruction. At this time, we are unsure how PAT members will have the time or ability to create lessons that work equally well in an online format and in an in-person class. We are unsure how an educator can meet the needs of students watching a class while also keeping students socially distant and on-task in an in-person model. Finally, we are unsure how an educator can spend time creating in-person pandemic-classroom norms and provide continuous instruction, while also keeping an online relationship with students who attend a fully CDL school model.
What is abundantly clear is that PPS is also unsure how these things will happen. The District appears to desperately want to be able to claim that it has “reopened” school buildings, regardless of the potential harm to students, their families, or the professional educators who serve them.
We know that PAT members also want schools to reopen for in-person instruction, and we know that all of you have worked all year to create a Comprehensive Distance Learning experience for students that works, even if that version of “works” is imperfect. Your Team believes that the LIPI agreement that was reached just a few weeks ago will give the District the ability to further enhance the CDL experience for students. It seems that rather than enter a program that is so fundamentally flawed, the District should help educators make the CDL model as successful as it possibly can be. Although your Team holds those ideas at this time, we know that we need to hear from all of you before we make final proposals around this issue.
The PAT is sending a survey to all PAT members asking for member reaction to the District’s plan for a “Simulcast” model of Hybrid instruction.
We ask that each member take the survey as soon as they receive it. We want to represent our members at the bargaining table, and we can’t do that without each of you providing responses. As in all things, our ability to move your issues forward in bargaining is a direct result of our unity.
Your PAT Bargaining Team-
Steve Lancaster, Chair
Portland Association of Teachers