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Sacramento City Schools still at odds with teachers over distance learning

The division comes after months of negotiations in some 20 collective bargaining sessions.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) and the union representing its teachers remain divided over distance learning plans as school is set to start in just two days.

On Monday, the Sacramento City Teachers Association (SCTA), the union representing Sacramento teachers, called for a state mediator to help resolve negotiations between the SCUSD officials over distance learning. Sacramento City schools moved to an all-online learning model for the start of the 2020-2021 school year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The two groups remain divided on 10 “major issues” regarding distance learning. However, the biggest sticking point remains over the minimum required live screen time for students. District officials are proposing more live instructional minutes than the teachers union is willing to agree to.

The SCTA says the screen time being proposed by SCUSD officials could be dangerous for the health of the students and argues that it goes far beyond minimum standards set by the California Education Code through Senate Bill 98. 

SCUSD officials say students are more successful when they receive direct instruction from a teacher.

“While SCTA can continue to frame our differences as ‘quality versus quantity’ we have to call into question their definition of quality,” said SCUSD Superintendent Jorge Aguilar in a statement. “Our district compromised on the number of instructional minutes that would be provided to our students, but we cannot compromise on the quality of instruction and education for our students."

Parents continue to call for concrete plans and are voicing their frustrations over the lack of answers.

Serena Renehan is a stay-at-home mother to a soon-to-be third grader in the SCUSD.

“A school district is for the kids and it’s not for the kids right now," Renehan said.

Katrina Trute is mother to a soon-to-be high schooler and a 2nd grader. She is very concerned that her younger son does not have concrete plans in place.

The division comes after months of negotiations in some 20 collective bargaining sessions. The two groups are also arguing over curriculum and instructional needs for students, services for students who are unable to participate in regularly scheduled distance learning, special education, split/combined classes, mandate recording of classes, the use of substitutes, and health and safety protections.

All SCUSD classes will begin through distance learning on Thursday through a temporary schedule. Students will meet with their teachers for about an hour and then proceed to independent work.

On Wednesday, the state assigned a mediator to hash out the issues between the SCUSD and the teachers union. 

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