Virtual School/Reopening Update

Quick Summary on Reopening Bargaining (7/23-7/24)

  • We’re not finished with bargaining over reopening and virtual school. 
  • Our proposal is that our school day have a hard stop at 4pm and that we have a written guarantee of a stipend for working from home. 
  • Summit contends they don’t have to bargain over these issues (for more on this, see “The Full Background”)
  • We believe we are close to an agreement on the middle school schedule that would switch middle school to the expeditions schedule, and we are awaiting Summit’s response. (Expeditions Schedule at the end of this email)

Teacher Action Item

We are requesting that all of our teachers take a specific action.  We are asking that you call, text, or email your Executive Director and Deans to express what you need to have formally, legally negotiated to start this school year in virtual school.  Any agreement we negotiate will be effective this year only and does not set a precedent for future years (or a return to in-person school this year, which would also need to be separately negotiated), nor for our contract.  You do not need to express what you need in future years because the agreement we negotiate is specific only for reopening during COVID 19.

We recommend that you share your perspective on why all or any of these measures proposed by our union would be helpful.  You can read the entirety of our proposal here.  

  1. Why you need meeting times to be capped at 90 minutes per week.  Four exceptions per semester can be made your ED.  Teachers need this for increased personalized time to prep for classes and reach out to families. If the justification for longer meetings and therefore work days is student support, we believe that this can be personalized from coaches. 
  2. Why you need your work day to have a hard stop at 4:00 during virtual school.  Teachers have said they need this for vision and other negative health impacts; childcare responsibilities; increased personalized time to prep for classes and reach out to families; and the need to take on supplemental income.  
  3. Why you need a stipend of $530 guaranteed. While Summit has agreed to continue the $30/month work from home stipend, along with extra money for other supplies, they have thus far refused to include the stipend as part of our agreement. Given the compensation freeze, we need a stronger commitment that Summit leadership will follow through on financial commitments to staff.
  4. Middle School Specific: Why the middle school should change to the expeditions cycle. Middle school teachers had been working with one prep per day.  Summit’s EDs proposed this schedule, so it is one reasonable way of solving the issue for Middle School teachers.  Unite Summit offered to move forward with implementing this schedule while continuing to negotiate over reopening and virtual school. 

If we do not have a budget for teaching materials, time to prepare for class, time to take care of basic health, time to care for children, and the ability to earn our expected income, then we cannot teach.  Meeting schedules  do not take precedence over the basic things we need to teach.  If you need support with reaching out to your Executive Director or deans, you are welcome to reach out to your site representative or union leadership for support. If you have additional needs or perspectives you would like to share, we encourage you to honestly do so.

The Full Background 

We believe we are in agreement and asked Summit to sign off on a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to change the middle school schedule to an expeditions model for SY 2020-21 only. We are awaiting their response .

We are still not in agreement regarding reopening school/virtual school.  As of the evening of July 28th, we have not heard a counter-proposal from Summit regarding reopening/virtual school. Therefore, we are filing impasse paperwork on the morning of the 29th. Impasse occurs when the parties aren’t able to make any further movement; it allows for a mediator to be assigned to try and help the parties reach an agreement.

SPS believes that there is no requirement to negotiate with the union to reopen school in Fall 2020 due the fact we taught virtually in Spring 2020.  However, there is a significant difference between the quick closure and transition to virtual school in March (and its various iterations throughout the spring semester) and starting out the school year fully virtual and unable to teach in person. We know that starting off the school year virtually is going to significantly change our work, and we need to make some changes to adapt to the situation. 

We are confused by Summit’s position that they don’t need to negotiate over school reopening/virtual school. We are basically in agreement. We agree with Summit that we should  use the schedule we used for virtual school round 2 (except for the changes to middle school). We agree with Summit that teachers should receive a stipend to cover the costs of working from home, but Summit will not put this guarantee into a legally-enforceable memorandum of understanding. Finally, we have proposed that our workday end at 4pm. For some reason, Summit seems to be under the impression that agreeing to a 4pm stop in the context of virtual school negotiations means that the 4pm stop is the new “status quo” that will exist even if we are able to come back to school in person. Again, this is a confusing stance: we are only addressing reopening and virtual school in these negotiations and our agreement would only cover reopening and virtual school. Our contract negotiations, and any changes we need to bargain in how we conduct school this year (for example, if we return to in-person school) are separate. Unfortunately, Summit seems to be conflating the reopening/virtual school negotiations with the other bargaining that is also ongoing; this conflation seems to be preventing us from reaching an agreement.

Information for Middle School Teachers

Previously, we shared the expeditions schedule proposed by SPS.  We want to provide you with information on how an expeditions cycle works from a teacher perspective.  The screenshot below is for your convenience.

We want to be very clear that leading up the schedule above would involve teaching for about 6 weeks, followed by 2 weeks of not teaching as students follow their expeditions schedule (above).   

During the 6 weeks of the regular (non-Expeditions) schedule, the daily schedule does not change for teachers. The students would have an SDL block instead of an electives block and that would allow them to go for a walk, eat, take a break or work on school if they so choose during that time.

During the two-week period where students take expeditions courses, you would still mentor in the typical morning schedule.  Following mentor time, project time teachers typically engage in a combination of professional development (designed mostly by EDs), coaching, and prep.  This cycle of on/off teaching would occur four times throughout the school year. The amount of weeks teaching at the beginning and end of the school year would vary from site to site due to the expeditions rotation. If the rotation includes middle schools as well as high schools this would mean Denali MS would see their students for three weeks before expeditions, K2 MS would see their students for five weeks before expeditions and Tam MS would see their students for 7 weeks before expeditions. 

If you have any questions about the proposed changes to the middle school schedule, please contact Denali Middle School Bargaining Team representative Amber Steele (