Local teachers’ unions across the state, encouraged by the Connecticut Education Association, are asking school districts to negotiate policies for reopening schools in the fall, given the changes that will be required of staff.
They are requesting that superintendents and boards of education sit down and negotiate under the Teacher Negotiations Act, which gives unions the right to negotiate whenever working conditions are altered.
“Successfully reopening schools depends largely on local districts ensuring a real voice for all stakeholders — educators, parents and other school community members — in establishing a safe and healthy school environment,” said the Association’s President Jeff Leake. “Our dedicated educators are eager to get back into the classroom with their students because they know learning is more equitable and effective when it takes place in person—but it must be done with adequate health and safety measures in place.”
Some of the union’s specific concerns, not included in the state Department of Education’s guidance for districts, include: smaller class sizes, routine testing for COVID-19, monitoring the health and well-being of all students and state-provided personal protective equipment.
It has come to our attention that, the “Board of Education plans to require teachers to return to work and/or engage in remote learning for students during the pandemic/health crisis due to the COVID -19 situation…the Board of Education is obligated to negotiate the impact of substantial changes in working conditions, and in some instances over the change itself…Please acknowledge this letter as a demand to bargain the Board’s plans to have teachers return to work and/or engage in a remote learning model,” stated one letter sent from a local union to a Board of Education in southeastern Connecticut.
“Accommodations must be made, especially for those at higher risk, and appropriate guidelines must be in place to provide a safe learning and teaching environment,” Leake said.
This news story was edited at the request of Nancy Andrews, the Association’s director of communications and member benefits, to clarify that the union was outlining specific concerns, rather than demands.