Teacher’s association and school district finish negotiating steps to reopening

PHOTO: On the Davis Joint Unified School District COVID-19 website, easy-to-read infographics are posted with vital information such as the steps for Phase 3, the introduction of hybrid models. (Courtesy of DJUSD website)

By Mia Croff,

BlueDevilHUB.com Staff–

The Davis Teacher Association negotiation team and a group of administrative staff from the Davis Joint Unified School District concluded negotiations on a memorandum on understanding (MOU). The memorandum outlines steps required before students can return to campus and will be voted into legitimacy by DTA members starting March 1 to March 3.

Completed last Wednesday, the MOU defines everything involving the reopening, from safety regulations to vaccination requirements. 

“The Board put out three sets of criteria that must be met to return: internal criteria, such as updating air filters, the county being in the red zone for two weeks and all DJUSD staff receiving both vaccinations of the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Matt Best, Deputy Superintendent and head of negotiations. 

As DTA negotiations chair and social studies teacher at Da Vinci Junior High, Victor Lagunes was involved in the MOU discussion. “It is my hope that there is recognition that we put in all this work together and reached this preliminary agreement and this is what is needed,” said Lagunes. “It would be irresponsible of me to put this forward if I didn’t personally advocate for it.”

Dianna Stommel, the DTA President and Davis High social studies teacher, and Sydney Lundy, the DHS site representative and member of the negotiation team, also support the MOU. 

According to Best, everything that the district can control in terms of the reopening, they have “pretty much figured out,” including the hybrid models by school models.  

The secondary hybrid model for DJUSD was decided upon by the board on Jan. 19.  According to the model posted on the DJUSD website, students will be split into two groups and will alternate between going onto campus two days a week and remaining online for the other three.  The class schedule shown is the same as the current schedule for online learning. 

A synchronous learning system will be implemented into classrooms so that teachers can stream their lessons to their online learners while also engaging their students physically in the classroom.  

In order to assist with this transition, administration will be providing extensive professional development to prepare education staff.

“It’s going to be a big lift to switch from online learning to coming back,” Lagunes said. “Trying to get through the logistics of all that entails is going to be very difficult. So there is time for professional development that was specifically included in the MOU to prepare, for example, being able to teach both online and in-person simultaneously.”

A big addition to extensive safety measures implemented on campuses upon return is asymptomatic testing centers available on campuses due to a district partnership with Healthy Davis Together. As of now, saliva testing centers have been established on 11 out of the 15 campuses.  

“We are so fortunate to have the Healthy Davis Together partnership. When we come back on campus we will have the safest campuses around,” Best said. 

“Administration has met and exceeded the guidelines of the CDC. Guidance is changing constantly and they are doing a great job keeping up with that,” Stommel said. 

In addition to the excitement of distinct plans coming together and negotiations coming to a close, the conditions out of administration’s control are beginning to improve as well.  

As of Feb. 16, according to YoloCounty.org, the county is in Phase 1B Tier 1 of COVID-19 vaccination distribution. This means “residents 65+ and frontline workers in education, childcare, emergency services, and the food and agricultural industry that live or work in Yolo County can now sign up for Yolo County’s vaccine clinics.”

According to a survey taken by DJUSD staff on the morning of Feb. 16, 22 percent of staff has received one or both doses of their COVID-19 vaccine and 66 percent would be willing to get the vaccine. Even more encouraging is the increase in the number of vaccines being distributed to Yolo County weekly.  

However, despite being in the Tier 1B and frequent vaccination clinics hosted by Dignity Health, it is still challenging for education staff to obtain their vaccinations. Appointments are taken fast and there is plenty of competition for the coveted vaccines. 

“Part of the reason for limited access to the vaccination is that the vaccine is now available to individuals 65 years or older, farmers and police. It’s a race in some ways to see who can push the button fast enough to jump on the wagon. We are encouraging everyone to get appointments, but there is a limited number,” DJUSD public information officer Maria Clayton said. 

Along with the good news about educator vaccinations, Yolo County has moved into the red tier as of Feb. 23 at midnight, checking another requirement off of the list of adjustments needed to return to campuses. 

If these ideal conditions continue and educators are able to promptly get their vaccinations, there is hope for a physical return to campuses in the 2020-21 school year. 

“It will take a couple more weeks until everyone can get vaccinated, about two or three hopefully. We are targeting mid-March for total vaccination,” Best said. “Then three to five weeks after that for reopening.  So possible around mid to late April.”

Despite this encouraging news, returning to campus does not mean in-person learning will be remotely similar to what it was before the pandemic forced closures last March. 

As explained by Stommel, “it is a return to campus, not a return to normal.”

“It’s going to be difficult to not socialize as we did before the pandemic. It takes a village. Everyone is going to have to help out and remind people about these regulations, even though it’s uncomfortable,” Best said. 

Although circumstances will be unideal and hard to adjust to, educators are just as excited for even a slight bit of normality to come.

“Oh, I can’t wait. I cannot wait. I frequently hear that [teachers] want to see their students again. And my personal feelings are in line with that,” Lagunes said. 

For more information regarding hybrid models, safety measures put into place and much more, visit the DJUSD COVID-19 website

Schools must make certain accomodations before they are able to open for in-person instruction. (Courtesy of DJUSD website)

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