School unions on board with Phases 1 & 2

Sep 16, 2020 by

Published September 16, 2020

By MARK SARDELLA

WAKEFIELD — Unions representing Wakefield teachers and other school personnel have ratified a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with respect to working conditions under Phases 1 and 2 of the school reopening plan.

The first two phases encompass the 10 days of teacher “professional development” and the eight days of remote learning before the hybrid instructional model begins on Sept. 29.

Last week, the rank and file membership of Wakefield Education Association (WEA) Units A, B and C voted to ratify the MOU on returning to school under Phases 1 and 2. This ratification vote took place late last week after a tentative agreement was reached between the school administration and union negotiators earlier in the week.

Unit A includes teachers, counselors, therapists, nurses, curriculum coordinators and coaches. Unit B covers assistant principals and program directors. Unit C includes paraprofessionals and aides. 

The WEA has agreed to the reopening plan voted on August 12, 2020 by the School Committee for Phases 1 and 2. 

The MOU states that “the professional expectations for teachers during the reopening of schools shall be consistent with meeting the curriculum and student learning time requirements set by law, DESE and district policy. Regardless of location (e.g., remote, in-person or a combination of both) the expectations for the delivery of instruction remains constant. This is inclusive of an expectation of direct/live/synchronous instruction as the primary mode of delivery regardless of location.”

The MOU further stipulates that teacher evaluation and observation will occur in both the in-person and remote learning environments. Observations may include the teaching and learning of in-person, synchronous and asynchronous lessons. The Wakefield Education Association and the Wakefield School Committee agree to address supervision and evaluation in a separate Memorandum of Understanding completed no later than October 1, 2020.

Under the agreement, all staff will adhere to all health and safety protocols as established within the approved district reopening plan and any applicable School Committee policy. The District will follow DESE protocols for responding to COVID-19 related situations.

The MOU requires all school staff and students to wear face masks. Mask breaks will take place outdoors whenever possible. Employees may elect to take mask breaks outdoors as needed when not supervising students. Students will be provided with at least two mask breaks per day, one of which will be the lunch break.

High risk staff (e.g. nurses and staff who work with students with complex needs) will be provided with additional protective equipment.

Cleaning protocols for classrooms and restrooms are outlined in the MOU.

During Phase 2, all Unit A members will be permitted to work remotely on days when they have no in-person responsibilities. Units B and C members will be permitted to work remotely at the discretion of their supervisor.

Any staff who work remotely are expected to be available and accessible for the entire work day. Staff must dress in a professional manner consistent with WPS guidelines. Regardless of whether staff are working from their buildings or remotely, the same high quality teaching practices are expected.

Staff working from home must have an appropriate background (i.e., a blank wall or a WPS virtual background), must be working in an area free from disruption, and must prevent family members or anyone else in the home from hearing or disrupting their work.

Staff are responsible for ensuring that students act in a manner consistent with WPS expectations. Any behaviors inconsistent with these expectations should be handled as they would in the physical classroom.

Staff are expected to report any issues with their technology immediately so as to get a quick resolution.

The MOU outlines teachers’ classroom responsibilities. Teachers work day is 6 hours and 50 minutes. Schedules and routines will be established by teachers under the supervision of the school administration.

Teachers may be required to actively teach for 3-4 hours a day. Daily student attendance must be recorded and shared with school administration.

Communication logs must be maintained to keep track of outreach to students who are not engaged or who may have difficulty participating in their learning. Teachers will reach out to student support and administration to assist in these outreach efforts.

The MOU also outlines the roles and responsibilities of assistant principals and directors as well as instructional support personnel.

The MOU covers what happens when an employee tests positive for COVID-19, including mandatory quarantine requirements.

The agreement also outlines options for school employees with pre-existing conditions or an employee who has an immediate family member or member of the employee’s household that contracts COVID-19.

Under the agreement, employees may opt to take an unpaid leave for either one semester during the 2020-21 school year or for the entirety of the 2020-21 school year. Should the District transition to a full remote model, employees on such leave may, upon submission of appropriate documentation, return to work in the remote model.

According to School Committee member Thomas Markham, who chairs the Labor Relations Subcommittee, union negotiations will now begin on Phase 3, which, if all public health indicators and safe school buildings metrics allow, is expected to begin on September 29. Phase 3 involves a hybrid of in-person classroom instruction and remote learning.

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