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December 18, 2020 Negotiations Update

Negotiations Update: December 18, 2020
Negotiations Update: December 18, 2020

BFT met with BUSD six times In December. On December 15, the BFT Negotiations Team made a lengthy counterproposal on the subject of Elementary and ECE Phase 2 Hybrid reopening. On December 17, BUSD presented its hybrid proposal for Middle Schools. BFT Vice President Janine Waddell explained the Elementary and ECE BFT counterproposal in her speech to the School Board on December 16.


BFT Elementary Counterproposal

Voluntary Staffing

BFT proposed that only teachers who volunteer to return to in person instruction shall be assigned to work with students in person. 

Threshold for Resuming and Continuing in Person Instruction

BFT proposed that contingent upon in-person work being voluntary, in person instruction in a hybrid model for elementary and ECE will resume after Alameda County and the City of Berkeley are designated in the Orange Tier and that Elementary and ECE programs will remain open as long as the county and city remain in the Orange Tier. If BUSD rejects the proposal that all in person work be voluntary, BFT proposes that the threshold for reopening will be the Yellow Tier. 

Criteria for Closing a Class or School

If a confirmed case of COVID occurs in any classroom, the classroom will close. It may reopen after two weeks. If confirmed COVID cases over the course of a week total 5% or more of the student population of a site, the entire school will close for two weeks. 

Student and Staff COVID Testing

BFT proposed that all students be tested before returning to in person instruction and every two weeks as long as they are attending classes in person. 

BFT accepted the BUSD proposal that staff be required to obtain a COVID test every two weeks, but countered that testing opportunities shall be provided at each school site and that teachers shall be granted one hour of staff meeting time or one hour of pay at the hourly rate to complete the required testing. 

High Risk individuals

BFT proposed that teachers who document that they have conditions on the CDC high risk list, or live with someone who has those conditions, or are a caretaker for someone with these conditions, will be allowed to continue to work remotely, regardless of the specific outcome of their accommodations interview.

Work Location

BFT proposed that members may work remotely from any location as long as they are on site for any responsibilities they may have during the in person instruction portion of the day. 

Elementary Hybrid Schedule

The BFT survey showed strong support among elementary teachers for the general hybrid model that BUSD has proposed. The model retains the core of Distance Learning in the mornings and adds in person options in the afternoon for those who choose them. However it’s not possible to keep all of the elements of Distance Learning while adding in person time. 

BFT’s proposal keeps online classes together for whole class sessions every day for every student. It keeps the A/B half class sessions for students who aren’t attending in person on any given day. Teachers who are working in person will not hold small group sessions online. Students who remain in 100% Distance Learning may receive small group support from teachers who also remain in 100% Distance Learning. Members report that students are somewhat less engaged with the asynchronous work, so our proposal greatly reduces responsibility for that work for those teachers who will work in person. 

BFT rejected the BUSD proposal that in person small group support instruction be provided by classroom teachers while they are simultaneously conducting live online instruction while a hybrid model is in effect.

BFT proposed that Special Ed, intervention, release time and enrichment staff continue to work remotely unless they volunteer to work in person. This will reduce the likelihood that adults are traveling from group to group and bursting cohort bubbles. 

BFT proposed that students will eat their grab and go snacks and meals outdoors and that a plan will be developed for eating outside under cover on rainy days. BUSD is planning to install some covered shelters in the coming weeks. 

BFT expects that there will be many logistical challenges that cannot be foreseen or completely addressed in a written agreement before classes begin. Many will need to be solved on a site by site basis. To facilitate the type of problem solving that will be required, BFT proposed a more gradual reopening than that proposed by the district.

Week 1--TK/K and ECE classes will open.

Week 2--Grades 1-2 classes will open.

Week 3--Grades 3-5 classes will open.

Week 4--After school classes will open. 

BEARS After School Program

Under the BFT proposal, Bears staff will only return to in person work if they volunteer to do so.

BFT has proposed that whenever possible, Bears classes will be assigned to rooms that are not in use during the in person portion of the school day. Students will eat any snacks or meals outside. 

BFT proposed that there be a plan for isolating students who show symptoms after school offices close for the end of the day.


BFT ECE Counterproposal

ECE teachers have special concerns due to the age of their students and the need to be physically close to them throughout the day. BFT proposed that even these young students be required to wear masks and that ECE teachers should receive any PPE that they request, including N95 masks for daily use. 

BFT proposed that the day be shortened so that naps are not necessary, since students are not able to wear masks and the napping will occur in enclosed spaces. In addition, ECE teachers and facilities do not have the capacity to launder all sheets on a daily basis. If the day is not shortened, ECE teachers will reduce the current amount of parent outreach in order to allow more time for the necessary sanitation practices. ECE teachers will not be required to assist with toothbrushing. 


BUSD Middle School Proposal

On December 17, BUSD presented their proposal for a middle school hybrid model. Similar to their elementary proposal, it maintains much of the current Distance Learning program in the morning and adds in person time in the afternoon. BFT did not respond to this proposal, and will consult with middle school members before making a counterproposal. 

BUSD proposed that all work be done on site, whether remote or in person. 

The district model compresses three periods per day into the time between 9 am and 12 noon. Each period would be 55 minutes long with 5 minute passing periods. In response to BFT questions, BUSD acknowledged that there may be developmental concerns about students’ ability to stay continuously focused on the screen for that long, but said that it was necessary to create adequate time for in person experiences in the afternoon.

BUSD’s proposal increases the required amount of asynchronous work from 20 to 35 minutes per period to make up for the 5 minute reduction in the length of class sessions for periods 1-6. 

The BUSD proposal eliminates the Monday advisory period and increases the Wednesday advisory period to 45 minutes. It maintains the three 45 minute equity groups on Wednesdays, which will remain fully remote.

The district proposes that each teacher will work with students in person for two and a half hours per day, except on Wednesdays. Teachers would assist in screening and supervising students as they arrive and depart. They would have 90 minutes with an A or B group cohort. The district could not fully answer BFT questions about how the cohorts would be assigned or what curriculum would be taught. The district’s current ideas include PE, recreation and opportunities to socialize with peers. BUSD has not explained how credentialing issues would be addressed. 


Assembly Bill 10

California Assembly members are considering legislation that would require schools to reopen within two weeks once their county enters the Red Tier. If passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor, the law would take effect on March 1, 2021. AB 10 does not include the necessary planning or resources to open safely, does not acknowledge equity issues within or between districts, and does nothing to address the glaring lack of data about how COVID is affecting schools that have already attempted to reopen to in-person instruction. It ignores complex local considerations and replaces them with a statewide arbitrary date. It is especially appalling that the bill was proposed during a period of extreme suffering and death across the state. CFT is mounting a statewide campaign to defeat AB 10. We urge you to express your concerns about AB 10 by clicking on the link above.


Respect and Gratitude

The BFT Negotiations Team has the deepest respect and gratitude for our members’ incredibly hard work on behalf of Berkeley students. At every session, we hold close the thought of your talent, skill and dedication.  It inspires us to fight for what you need to do the best possible job under the most trying circumstances. We wish you a well deserved and restorative break! 


For information or to offer comments please contact BFT Vice President Janine Waddell at

This Negotiations Update was prepared by BFT Treasurer Cynthia Allman and edited by the BFT Negotiations Team.
Berkeley Federation of Teachers, CFT/AFT, AFL-CIO

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