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Portland Public Schools negotiating with union to give teachers more time for course planning

After two days of bargaining, the district said Friday the two parties have yet to come up with a deal.

PORTLAND, Ore. — The Portland Association of Teachers (PAT) is negotiating with Portland Public Schools (PPS) to give teachers more time to plan their work days and better serve students. 

Teachers have said they need more time to deal with the increased need in classrooms due to staffing shortages and other pandemic-related challenges. 

After two days of bargaining, the district said Friday the two parties have yet to come up with a deal.

"Although we made significant progress in our conversations to provide a robust educational experience in a challenging year for our students, we have not reached a tentative agreement with the union," said the statement from PPS.

In late November, the teacher's union proposed converting one day a week at district high schools to an asynchronous day, meaning students would stay home and finish homework but would not have any in-person classes. 

On those days, teachers would be available to help students for three hours per day. Teachers would use the other three hours of the day for planning, including activities like grading student work and creating or adapting lesson plans.

The union's proposal also included things like limiting staff meetings, shift teacher evaluations, "busy work" from some educator meetings and a day for professional development dedicated to improving school climate.

On Friday in a letter to parents, PPS said it would instead offer the following to the teacher's union: 

  • Three (3) full day professional development and planning days with an added student day in June. We’ve offered to extend the school year by a day, ensuring our students have as many in-school experiences as possible.
  • Alternate school schedule: All elementary, middle school and K-8 schools would have weekly one-hour early release days extending educators’ planning time. At the high school level, we offered to adjust the schedule to allow students to participate in biweekly “flex” time, giving students an opportunity for extra support from their teachers and counselors, extend their classroom learning, and/or participate in school enrichment activities during the school day. 

"The goal of the District’s proposals are intended to balance the need for students to be in schools, in-person, while providing our educators time to plan and collaborate with each other in a year with staffing shortages and continuing COVID demands," the statement from PPS said. "PAT continues to propose more reduction to in person learning experiences for our students–and other ideas–that we do not believe create the right balance for student preparation and student needs."

The district said it has offered to reconvene with the union on Monday, Dec. 20, and continue negotiations, but a time has not been scheduled. 

"Our community recognizes the tension of the tradeoffs involved in these discussions between the union and the school district," PPS said. "We are hopeful that we can come to a shared understanding with the union that balances the need for teachers to prepare with students being in school."