President's Message: What We Need for a Safe and Stable School Year

Dear Educator,

As we begin another school year in the grip of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the dedication, creativity, and professionalism of educators in our public schools has never been more apparent. 

Last week, the joy of finally being in-person with students, and seeing them interact with one another and with the adults in the school community, was overwhelming. Perhaps equally overwhelming has been the anxiety of returning to school while Oregon is experiencing a record surge in COVID-19 cases. The ever-shifting guidance from public health authorities and the state has left us all with so many unanswered questions.

The most important educational issue continues to be the safety of our students, our community, and our colleagues. That is why it is so important that we use every tool available to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our classroom and our schools.

Today, all PAT members are invited to an All-PAT Member Meeting to learn about our Tentative COVID-19 Safety Agreement for this school year. Our bargaining team worked throughout August to defend and strengthen the COVID-19 safety agreements we won last spring. 

Please read the Tentative Agreement for the COVID-19 Safety Letter of Agreement (LOA), attend the meeting, and then vote.

A ballot will be coming to your PPS email about 5:30 PM today. The PPS school board will be voting on whether to ratify this agreement at their September 14th meeting. Our COVID-19 Safety LOA for the 2021-2022 school year only goes into effect if it’s ratified by our membership and the PPS School Board.

Having a safety agreement in place is a crucial step in creating COVID-safe schools. We also need members in every building to be united in enforcing these agreements. That includes making sure adults and students are wearing masks consistently and correctly, using the HEPA filters in every space, and modeling and reinforcing social distancing. 

It also includes working with your elected PAT Building Representatives and your site’s COVID-19 Safety Committee to ensure that all our agreements and all the safety-protocols are in place at your school.

We believe that our Tentative Agreement creates the safest in-person learning environments possible, given the conditions we are facing. We also know that many of the problems we are currently facing would be much easier to solve if we weren’t living with decades of disinvestment in our schools. 

For years, we have been advocating for smaller class sizes, safe school buildings, and social-emotional support for our students. We need these basic supports now more than ever.

We know when we are united, we have the power to make things better for our students and for the future of our schools. Let’s start by making our buildings as safe as possible, and vigorously enforce our COVID-19 safety standards.

In Solidarity,


Elizabeth Thiel

PAT President