Austin teachers union demands no in-class school until mid-November, Abbott says educators should have no safety concerns

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Education Austin, the labor union representing teachers and other employees in the Austin Independent School District, published a list of demands for AISD leadership before the proposed school year begins Aug. 18.

The union does not want school to start until Sept. 8, and it does not want any in-person teaching until at least mid-November.

“We need to stop the return of on-campus learning until public health data shows it is safe for students, families, teachers, and school employees,” the union wrote in support of its petition on Sunday night.

The public health data the union is pointing to is a 14-day streak of a decline in active cases, a positive test rate of less than 5% and a transmission rate of less than 1%.

They also want the district to provide personal protective equipment for staff, students and visitors on every campus in the district, and for the district to guarantee teachers get their full pay with no layoffs or furloughs.

Here’s the complete list of the union’s demands:

  • Reschedule the 2020-2021 school year start date of August 18, 2020 (for online learning) to September 8, 2020 for all AISD schools.
  • Online learning (including an SEL component) will be offered for nine weeks or more after a September 8, 2020 start date.
  • All AISD schools will reopen only when there is a decline in new cases for at least 14 consecutive days, a positive test rate of less than 5%, and a transmission rate of less than 1%.
  • Provide a weekly COVID-19 update to include the most current data, trends, research, models, and recommendations from public health officials.
  • Establish a COVID-19 (reopening and 2020-2021 school year) Task Force prior to August 18, 2020 to include parents, guardians, students, staff, teachers, Education Austin, and other community stakeholders in making further detailed recommendations to AISD.
  • Provide a clear and concise written reopening and safety plan for all campuses and facilities to be shared publicly with minimal worksite discretion.
  • All AISD employees will be guaranteed 100% pay, no layoffs, and no furloughs.
  • “Hero Pay” at the rate of 1.5 times for classified or hourly staff (i.e. custodial, transportation, etc.) that physically report to work.
  • Provide uniform professional development (PD) prior to the September 8, 2020 start date to fully support teachers and staff with technology usage for online learning to include: BLEND Class Set-Up, BLEND Content Upload, How to Upload/Embed Links or Videos, Google Drive and Google Docs, Zoom or other interactive student and teacher platforms, and other COVID-19 related PD.
  • Assign internally or hire externally an individual or team to solely coordinate reopening, navigate the 2020-2021 school year and beyond as part of AISD’s Emergency Management Team specific to COVID-19 pandemic.
  • All employees have the right to refuse to return to their worksite if they feel unsafe.
  • Provide ten leave days in addition to the federal CARES ACT allotment of ten days for all employees in case of a need to quarantine a second time.
  • Consult with AISD Equity Office to ensure reopening plans are aligned with racial and economic equity goals.
  • Provide a Special Education Plan to include outreach and contact with all special education families in determining needs to provide Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and instructional support.
  • Increase funding for the Community School model to expand and hire additional staffing as needed.
  • Provide students and parents training options for how to utilize online learning via digital modules and/or physical packets that will count towards required instructional minutes for students.
  • Determine most appropriate and simple technology platforms for teachers, parents, and students in each grade level that account for cyber safety and digital citizenship guidelines in order to reduce risk and liability for both staff and families.
  • There will be no administration of the STAAR, AISD Benchmark Tests, or other STAAR-related assessments.
  • Along with healthcare providers and officials, follow and make public strict protocols for social distancing, handwashing, wearing of a face mask, face-shields, or goggles, testing, contact tracing, and quarantine procedures for students and staff.
  • Purchase and supply personal protective equipment (PPE) to all staff, students, and campus visitors once a return to campuses is announced.
  • Conduct a thorough assessment of the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems via an external entity to minimize health risks through HVAC systems and make appropriate changes before the return of any staff to their worksites.
  • COVID related leave accommodations for employees that can work from home should apply to classified employees or others that cannot work from home. Employees that cannot work from home should not be forced to apply for COVID-19 specific or FMLA leave, which limits their pay, time that they are allowed to be home, and forces them to use their own sick and/or personal leave.
  • Coordinate with healthcare providers to eliminate all insurance copayments and deductibles and provide free COVID-19 testing and treatments to all staff.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Teacher’s Union demands

In an interview on KXAN on Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott, saying he believes it’s important for school districts to be able to decide when — and how — they want to start the new school year.

“The bottom line is this: the power of decision-making authorities is exactly where it should be. And that is with the local school board level. The have all the flexibility they need to keep students and teachers safe,” said Abbott.

When asked about the possibility that many Texas teachers may choose to retire early rather than risk returning to campuses, Abbott explained that the precautions schools are required to take means there are no safety concerns teachers should have about returning.

“There is no concern that teachers should have with regard to the safety setting of the school environment — knowing full-well they have the capability of educating children remotely for months on end before they do have to go into a classrooms,” Abbott said. “What we need now are teachers who are going to step up and make sure that we do not lose a generation of students simply because of the pandemic.”

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