District, teacher’s union reach agreement, MDUSD campus reopening starts Mar. 25

Concord, CA — An agreement reached early Tuesday morning between the Mt. Diablo Unified School District and its teacher’s union paves the way for implementation of the plan to reopen campuses for hybrid learning beginning next Thursday, Mar. 25.

MDUSD and Mt. Diablo Education Association arrived at a tentative agreement to welcome students back to campuses in a hybrid model in phases, beginning with PreK through second grade and SDC classes on Mar. 25. Third through 12th grades start up Mar. 29.

To become final, the tentative agreement needs ratification from MDEA members and a vote of approval from the MDUSD Governing Board. The Governing Board had already been scheduled to meet tonight for a special meeting to take action on a reopening timeline.

View the MDUSD and MDEA Hybrid Learning Phase Tentative Agreement

Moving quickly

If the tentative agreement is ratified by both parties, the district will move quickly to notify parents and implement reopening plans that have been long in development.

In a joint announcement, MUSD Chief of Human Resources Dr. John Rubio and MDEA President Anita Johnson, expressed appreciation to all “for the tremendous amount of work that went into coming to an agreement.”

The statement continued, “After approximately 80 hours of bargaining over five days, and after 19 hours straight of bargaining from Monday morning into Tuesday, at 5 a.m. Tuesday, MDEA and the District came to a tentative agreement for an MOU for a Hybrid Learning Phase. In the end, the parties agreed to a 61-page document to ensure a return to campus for those who choose it and supporting the safety of students and MDEA members.

“Both MDEA and the District would like to thank everyone, and we are excited to welcome back students to our campuses as the pandemic situation improves and as more of our employees get vaccinated.”

The final negotiations took place in the wake of Contra Costa’s advancement to the red tier this week as one of the last two Bay Area counties to show reduced COVID-19 metrics required for moving out of the highest COVID-19 purple tier set by the state.

Health and Safety protocols

At last week’s meeting, the MDUSD Board set Mar. 22 as the opening of preschool through second grade classrooms by a 3-2 vote. The board’s two newest members, Erin McFerrin and Keisha Nzewi, dissented as they expressed concerns that unilaterally setting that date could harm negotiations with the teachers.

Since that regular board meeting last Wednesday there were daily negotiations between the district and MDEA representatives to come to an agreement on health and safety protocols for teachers to return to the classroom with their students.

A special board meeting with a single agenda item regarding these negotiations was scheduled for today at 5 p.m., six days before the scheduled campus reopening’s.

A district spokesman added that the 61-page agreement showed that both parties “got into the weeds to provide mutual assurance that the necessary health and safety issues for teachers, students and staff were addressed.” The agreement includes protocols on social distancing and requires face coverings worn by every person on campus.

Revised reopening schedule

At the Mar. 10 board meeting, Superintendent Adam Clark presented a revised schedule of school reopening’s. After having their children experiencing remote learning for a full year Clark said it was time to begin transitioning students back to campus. Last month he reported 1000 students had left the district due to nearly a year of distance learning caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Clark’s dire prognosis to the board acknowledged “the tremendous difficulty and stress that distance learning has had on families” and said the reduced enrollment in MDUSD could lead to campus closures and staff layoffs. “That’s the harsh reality of public education. We staff in terms of enrollment,” Clark said.

The new agreement calls for distance learning in the mornings and on-campus instruction of approximately two hours in the afternoon daily except Wednesday. Because of limitations on the number of students allowed in a classroom, all grade levels will be broken into clusters for on-campus learning on either Monday-Tuesday or Thursday-Friday.

MDUSD has its Spring Recess from April 2-9 with the final day of school June 2, meaning students will have about two months of on-campus instruction since the pandemic first shutdown all school campuses last March.

Private schools remain open

Most private and parochial schools in the area began hybrid learning between October and January. There have been no reports of major health problems from local schools in the aftermath of those reopening’s.

Carondelet Principal Kevin Cushing

Carondelet Principal Kevin Cushing said, “We have about two-thirds of our students coming to campus in our hybrid. We are still bound by county health restrictions, so we have to space our classroom desks six feet apart, which allows us to have approximately 15-16 students in a classroom. That will limit our ability to bring more students on campus. We just completed our 16th week of in-person instruction in the hybrid and have had zero cases of on-campus spread of the virus.”