SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – As schools across the Sacramento region reopen with hybrid learning models amidst the pandemic, parents are voicing frustrations about when the 42,000 students can return to the classroom.

“I naively hoped this pandemic would be an opportunity for them to come together for the sake of our kids, but here we are a month into the school year and that still hasn’t happened,” said Daniel Conway.

Conway is a father of four who is frustrated with the district learning plan in Sacramento schools.

“Distance learning has been a complete mess. Schedules change all the time and it’s still not clear what our expectations should be as parents,” he said. “Frankly, the biggest problem is the kids who need help the most are falling further behind with all of this discord.”

That’s not good for the three-quarters of the students in the Sacramento Unified School District who are low income, speak another language, or are in the foster system.

Conway blames both sides.

The school district says it’s at an impasse with the union over instruction time and curriculum, and the teacher’s union says its plan for distance learning, approved by hundreds of educators, is going well.

The path forward amidst the state’s color-tiered reopening plan is unclear as schools across the region reopen with hybrid learning models. That has other bargaining groups speaking out.

Alan Daurie with the teamsters said: “You need to have that kind of sense as to what you are going to do next. You don’t just plan it when you show up.”

Last Friday, Sacramento, Natomas, and Twin Rivers unified school districts penned a letter making it clear they are not ready for in-person instruction any time soon. They collectively oppose reopening because COVID-19 has not receded equitably across zip codes in Sacramento County, making it unsafe for some.

Conway says this is not an acceptable solution for students. “We need the district and the teachers union to provide leadership,” he said.

A meeting between the teachers union and the district is being held tonight.

Here are the official statements from the districts we spoke to:

Sacramento Unified School District

“Despite SCTA’s public statements that school reopenings should not take place until at least January 2021, the district is committed to meeting around the clock to negotiate with SCTA to come to agreements on this and other topics. Our district is available to meet twice a week and would welcome this opportunity to negotiate with SCTA to come to agreement on several pending issues. Our district is focused squarely on the needs of our students, and especially those who are most vulnerable and who will be disproportionately impacted by extended school closures or our district’s fiscal challenges. This includes the 70 percent of our students who are low income, foster youth, experiencing homelessness or are English language learners.

Our attempts to reach agreement on the topic of distance learning ended with SCTA declaring impasse. When we couldn’t reach agreement, our district implemented a plan to ensure that all students receive a quality distance learning education. However, we are ready to meet around the clock to get our students back to school safely and will continue to engage with SCTA and other labor partners. We first invited SCTA to the table to discuss plans for reopening in early summer when we presented our Health and Safety Plan. In total, SCTA has turned down 23 dates to meet on the topic of returning to school and distance learning.

On September 23, we also again asked SCTA to come to the bargaining table to negotiate a successor contract and to help us come to a solution on the district’s costly health benefits structure. We have been attempting to bring SCTA to the bargaining table since November 2018, inviting them more than 100 times, resulting in only two meetings.

We are scheduled to negotiate on both returning to schools and the successor contract today and will keep our community updated. We encourage our community to access information and documents that can be found the District’s Negotiations Documents page on our website at https://www.scusd.edu/documents.” – Tara Gallegos, Sacramento Unified School District spokesperson.

Sacramento City Teacher’s Association

“Gentlemen:

We write this letter on behalf of the approximately 5100 certificated educators who teach in the Natomas Unified School District, Sacramento City Unified School District and Twin Rivers Unified School District. As you are aware, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), recently announced that Sacramento county has transitioned from a the current “Widespread” purple tier to “Substantial” red tier. This means that local districts may start making plans to transition from distance learning to hybrid models, as outlined in SCOE’s June 2, 2020, School Year Planning
Guide.

Even if Sacramento county overall can maintain red tier status, our collective position is it is unsafe and inequitable to resume instruction via a hybrid or fully-in-person instructional model until these standards can be achieved in every zip code in the three school districts. Our position from the beginning has been simple: California cannot physically open schools for in-person instruction unless it is safe. The politicization of school reopening and in-person instruction cannot allow us to stray from this core principle and from the science that drives it.

Additionally, there is also a critical issue regarding equity. Educational equity is tied to health equity. We must ensure that there is COVID-19 health equity in all neighborhoods and places across our county before schools return to in-person instruction. Grave health inequities exist related to COVID-19. A disproportionate number of people of color are getting sick and dying from COVID-19. A simple scan of zip codes across our county shows how the virus has had a devasting impact on low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.

Community COVID-19 conditions must be steadily low in all zip codes and with the necessary public health preparedness in place. When some get a head start, it deepens inequality. And, the rush to open school doors with high background transmission rates places unsafe pressure on low income communities and our most under-resourced public schools.

We think it is unrealistic to expect those conditions being met in the 2020 calendar year. Unless there is a dramatic improvement in COVID-19 rates and the significant expansion in testing capacity (i.e., regular, on-site, rapid and accessible for students, staff and school families) our school districts cannot physically open in a hybrid model until at least January of 2021. We look forward to further discussing as we strive to keep our schools, students, and community safe.

Sincerely,

David Fisher
President, Sacramento City Teachers Association

Brenda Borge
President, Natomas Teachers’ Association

Rebecca LeDoux
President, Twin Rivers United Educators”