PPS school hours in limbo without agreement in principle with the union


Portland public school elementary students. (Beth Conyers, Portland Public Schools)

PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) – Schedule changes likely to affect K-12 grades in Portland public schools in January have yet to be determined.

Despite weeks of negotiations and discussions between the school district and its teachers’ union, the two sides have yet to agree on a new weekly schedule that would give educators more time for critical planning and collaboration without reducing too many hours of in-person learning from students.

Negotiations began in late November and continued on Thursday, December 16, extending through Friday, December 17. The school district and the Portland Association of Teachers had hoped to reach an agreement before the winter break.

“Although we have made significant progress in our conversations to provide a strong educational experience during a difficult year for our students, we have not reached a tentative agreement with the union,” a statement from the union said. Portland Public Schools released Friday night.

During negotiations on Friday, the teachers’ union and school district discussed a proposal for a weekly one-hour early release day for all K-8 students, starting Jan. 31. If this proposal went ahead, schools would not see more than three. release days per month. The same proposal called for a flexible period twice a week for high school students, where students would have an hour of integrated study or tutoring, giving teachers time to catch up while providing one-on-one or one-to-one instruction to those who needs further help in a certain subject.

The ongoing discussions between PPS and its educators have been tense. Teachers say they are under unprecedented workloads due to the loss of learning and socialization among students. Students in the same year are at a wide variety of academic levels, which requires more time to plan and find an appropriate curriculum to bring all students up to standard.

“Elementary teachers teach several subjects, five or six times a day,” said Emily Markewitz, a member of the union bargaining team, on Thursday. “Each of these subjects has several groups of students who need different interventions. We seek timely ways to meet the needs of our students.

Portland Tribune and its parent company, Pamplin Media Group, are news partners of KOIN 6.

Union representatives say demands for extra planning time for teachers are on par with what neighboring districts are already providing for their employees.

Teachers say the challenges are forcing many educators to leave the profession, which could exacerbate existing staff shortages in the district. Union representatives said many teachers approached them asking how to take an extended period of leave or quit altogether.

Steve Lancaster, chairman of the PAT negotiating team, criticized the district’s alternative timetable proposals as inadequate, comparing them to “the reorganization of the lounge chairs on the Titanic”.

School leaders say teachers aren’t the only ones feeling stressed. They said any schedule changes would put a strain on families who may need to find short-term child care services, if schedule changes are enacted in January.

“We have all experienced trauma, especially our students,” said Jonathan Garcia, PPS chief of staff, on Thursday. We have experienced the complexity of human emotions. As you all know, we all experience burnout. We live in a state of the unknown. … We also know that we need consistency.

The PPS said its administrative team had offered to meet with the union again on Monday, December 20, but Friday evening no follow-up meeting was scheduled.

“We hope that we can come to a common understanding with the union that balances the need for teachers to prepare with school-going students,” the district statement added.


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