OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Just hours to go before the new school year launches for Oakland students, the teachers’ union and district officials still haven’t finalized a deal on what distance learning will look like this fall.
As of Sunday night, negotiations lasting more than 4 weeks were still ongoing with teachers saying they need more help and flexibility with live online instruction.
The major points of contention include the number of required teaching hours and the need for smaller group settings online.
When Zoom school uploads Monday morning, more than 50,000 students and teachers in Oakland will venture into what school officials say is an ‘improved’ digital classroom setting, but in reality, still very far from perfected according to teachers.
“When you’re looking at a class of 30 students, and half of them whose cameras might be off versus a small group of 10 where I can really ask ‘did you understand this’ or ‘what are you struggling with’, there’s no comparison between those,” said OUSD teacher Chela Delgado.
More than 2200 Oakland teachers will tackle that digital challenge. Parents are equally unsure whether the required live instruction component will be an improvement upon what many are calling a ‘failure’ last spring.
“While we were in a session, (we would ask) did we just do a whole hour of getting everybody online and now that everybody’s online, now it’s time to hang up. So is any work really being done?” said one Oakland parent named Danielle.
“We are asking district to make sure that we have subs and other adults in the school building or not classroom teachers helping us to hold those small groups,” said Delgado.
“Not having individualized interaction really affected her social and emotional health so what I’m hoping for the fall is definitely smaller group interaction,” said another Oakland parent Sarah Sandford Smith.
The Oakland Education Association, the teachers union, is demanding 5 hours of instruction daily as required by the state. They say the Oakland Unified School District wants 7 hours.
“Five hours of Instruction doesn’t include the planning. I’m doing in the follow up, and again, we’re in a pandemic,” said Delgado. “If I have more time to plan than the hours of instruction I’m giving my students is going to be at a higher level.”
The teachers’ union says it has issues with what the district is proposing called ‘Mini-mesters’, which would allow some students to take fewer classes at a time.
OUSD Superintendent Kyla Johnson Trammell says she is ‘looking forward to reaching a deal.’ The union believes the decision about Mini-mesters should be left up to individual school sites.