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July 15, 2020 Negotiations Update


Negotiations Update: July 15, 2020

BFT and BUSD teams have met 13 times in June and July to bargain over the terms for a return to instruction in August. We are guided in our negotiations by membership survey results and by direction from our Executive Board. In addition, members have been consulted on specific issues that affect their levels or departments.


State Requirements

As part of the state budget agreement that avoided drastic proposed funding cuts, the California Legislature enacted several requirements for Distance Learning. The state continues to require 180 days of instruction and students must receive live video instruction on a daily basis. Instructional minutes have been adjusted to 180 minutes per day for TK-K, 230 minutes per day for grades 1-3 and 240 minutes per day for grades 4-12. These minutes can be provided through a combination of live video instruction and asynchronous learning, which can include independent assignments and videos that students watch on their own. 


Hybrid Model v. Distance Learning

BFT worked diligently with BUSD over several sessions to examine every facet of a possible return to in-person learning, hoping that we could find a safe way to have students in our classrooms in August. We looked at necessary safety measures, possible schedules and complex logistics. However, as of this writing, COVID 19 cases and hospitalizations are rising in Berkeley, Alameda County and California. Testing and contract tracing is neither widely accessible nor rapid, and PPE shortages loom. Scientific reports seem to raise as many questions as they answer about viral transmission. Basic infrastructure improvements like added hand washing facilities and improved ventilation cannot be in place before August 17 and instead of providing more resources to meet these needs, sorely needed federal assistance to states, cities and school districts is being held up by Republicans in the Senate.

Current shelter-in-place orders from both the Berkeley Public Health and the Alameda County Public Health departments do not allow in-person learning at school, and these orders have not been lifted for schools at this time. Additionally, the Governor just issued guidelines that does not allow in-person learning at school for any county on the COVID watch list which includes Alameda County. Additionally, the State issued benchmarks that would need to be met in order to reopen.

BFT Resolutions

On July 9th, the BFT Executive Board passed two important resolutions. One directs our negotiations team to advocate that certain criteria are met before in-person school can resume. BFT Resolution Protecting the Health and Safety of Students and School Staff.  

Given that many of these criteria cannot be met at this time, the second resolution directs us to advocate that in-person learning not resume for the first quarter of the 2020-2021 school year so that more information about community spread, the impact of the virus on children and other key topics can be garnered. Resolution for Stopping Community Transmission of COVID-19 Before Any Returning to Schools. BFT shared these resolutions with district leaders and urged that negotiations shift from consideration of a hybrid model to focus on creating a robust Distance Learning plan.



At its July 15th meeting, the BUSD School Board approved the Superintendent’s recommendation that instruction begin in a Distance Learning model. Berkeley High will almost certainly remain in Distance Learning for the entire first semester. Middle and elementary schools will remain in Distance Learning at least until October 9. Public health recommendations will continue to guide district plans. The Superintendent’s recommendations can be found here.


Distance Learning Guidelines

BFT and BUSD have not yet reached any final agreements, but we have agreed in concept on these topics:

  • Daily live instruction and a standard schedule at each grade level, including a six period modified block schedule for middle schools and a BHS schedule where students take three classes in 4-5 week cycles, with a total of 8 cycles over the year.

  • Combination of whole class instruction and small group work

  • Mix of live video and asynchronous learning activities

  • Equity-driven student engagement efforts

  • Frequent parent/guardian communication 

  • Common learning platforms across the district, possibly Seesaw in grades TK-2 and Google Classroom in grades 3-12

  • The need for ongoing Professional Development 

  • Provision of appropriate laptops by BUSD 

  • Ability of teachers to work from home or their classroom


Existing contract provisions will continue to be in effect unless they are altered by a specific Memorandum of Understanding between BFT and BUSD. Here are a few relevant highlights:

  • Duty day of seven hours and ten minutes

  • Duty-free lunch

  • Prep/release time

  • Class size 


Ongoing Discussions 

These are the areas that currently are still under discussion: 

  • Specific amount of time spent on live video v. asynchronous instruction at each level

  • District support for aligned instruction via Activity Sets or other curriculum at TK-8

  • Schedules and duties for Special Education staff 

  • Schedules and duties for other support staff, such as literacy coaches, ELD teachers, RtI teachers, RJ Counselors, Academic Counselors, etc.

  • Schedules and duties for release time teachers (science, music, art, PE, dance)

  • Schedule for Wednesdays--live instruction, PD, collaboration, staff meetings, IEP and 504 Plan meetings

  • Possible reduced teaching load during the first two weeks of school to allow for student and family engagement and support work and Professional Development


What’s Next?

BFT and BUSD have several more sessions scheduled. We are aware of the pressing nature of these negotiations for our members and our entire community. The BFT Executive Board will meet on July 23 to hear an update and provide further direction to the BFT Team. 

BFT will continue to be an active member of the California Alliance for Community Schools, an organization that includes California’s largest and most activist unions. These unions are working together to fight for a safe return to instruction statewide and for the resources required to meet the needs of students in the midst of the pandemic and beyond. 

All of these issues are complex, and many do not lend themselves to obvious solutions. We welcome your thoughts, concerns and ideas. Please continue to look for updates from BFT. 


Berkeley Federation of Teachers Executive Officers

Matt Meyer, President

Janine Waddell, Vice-President

Angela Reed, Secretary

Cynthia Allman, Treasurer

Questions, Comments, Feedback?

For information or to offer comments please contact BFT President Matt Meyer at

This Negotiations Update was prepared by BFT Treasurer Cynthia Allman and edited by the BFT Negotiations Team.