Fremont Unified schools reopening plan faces hurdles
FREMONT, Calif. - Fremont Unified has set a target date of April 12 for some students to return to class if a deal is reached with the teacher’s union.
The teacher’s union is asking for a 33% pay increase for teachers who do hybrid, both in-person and distance teaching, as well as restorative practice training for staff and a new safety committee.
"I am very worried about the children," said parent Rachel Wang.
Wang’s second grader is out of school since last March and it’s taking a toll. In her mind, her son should have already been back in person at Warwick Elementary.
"The way that they are doing this bargaining is beyond my imagination," said Wang.
Fremont’s superintendent said the district has a plan for its 34,000 students. It’s a phased-in return for transitional kindergarten through high school for the weeks of April 12 and April 19 if labor unions agree.
The teacher’s union is proposing restorative practice training and a community-driven committee to re-envision school safety.
"The district believes that those discussions can happen outside the collective bargaining process as it relates to the return to campus," said Fremont Unified School District Superintendent CJ Cammack.
The union is also asking for a pay increase for teachers who return to campus for hybrid teaching.
Several teachers say this increase is actually a stipend; however, district spokesman Brian Killgore explained any teacher who will be providing hybrid instruction would be getting compensation at 33% above their regular salary.
"In this case, teachers are being asked to teach an additional group of students, for an additional number of hours per week," said Victoria Birbeck-Herrera, Fremont Unified District Teachers Association President.
The district said that could be challenging given the state of its budget.
The union president said restorative practice training will help students dealing with trauma during the pandemic.
"When they come to us with this trauma and with severe needs, we want to be prepared for that," said Birbeck-Herrera.
"I think we just need to return," said Fremont Teacher Jamie Phillips. "I’m actually not in favor of it."
Phillips is a kindergarten teacher at Harvey Green Elementary. She spends hours assembling supply bags for her students. She said she doesn’t need the bump in pay and the other conditions she views as not COVID-related.
She worries about losing state funds if schools don’t reopen in April.
"We are behind," said Phillips. "Our asks they need to be specific to a safe return. If we don't move forward with this process, I don't see how we are going to be ready in the Fall."
In a recent survey among transitional kindergarten through sixth-grade families, 17% want a hybrid model and half of families want to remain in distance learning.
Azenith Smith is a reporter for KTVU. Email Azenith at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @AzenithKTVU or Facebook or ktvu.com.