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Canby Education Association and Canby School District sign memorandum of understanding on 'education in the time of COVID'

Before students and staff made their way back to the school buildings, the Canby Education Association and Canby School District agreed to some specifics on how things might look.

"Any time there is a change in working conditions," said Association President Stefanie Agar, "unions have the opportunity to say, 'Something has changed. We need to come together to discuss the changes and potentially revise/add contract language to address it.' Clearly teaching during a global pandemic was a major change in how we teach, so there was a lot to discuss."

The result of the discussions was an eight-page memorandum of understanding on "education in the time of COVID" the parties agreed to and the school board approved at a Feb. 25 special meeting.

"The health and safety of our staff and students has been our primary focus throughout this process," Superintendent Trip Goodall said in a news release. "We are grateful for the cooperation from the bargaining team whose primary focus has been returning to in-person learning safely."

Board members who approved the MOU offered praise to school staff for how well they prepared for the shift back to the buildings.

"I just want to do a shout-out to both Ninety-One and Lee school," said board member Mike Zagyva, a retired educator. "Sara (Magenheimer) and I visited Ninety-One, did a tour of some of the requirements that they had to do to set up for hybrid learning. Did the same thing with Lee school, and I was blown away with the amount of work that they had to do to get set up. I understand how to start a school year, but not like this. So, kudos to them."

Board member Rob Sheveland offered similar praise to Knight Elementary staff.

Canby School District, like all other districts in the state, will be following the Oregon Department of Education's "Ready Schools, Safe Learners Guidance for Schools." But the MOU provides some insight as to how the guidance will be applied in Canby.

"Wrapping up a contract is like finishing an itinerary for a trip — although there may be unexpected things that come along the way," Agar said, "it's good to have a plan (or contract) in place to guide you."

First off, the MOU dictates that the district will provide information on vaccination appointments; N95 face coverings for staff who request them; and gloves, gowns, head coverings and face shields for staff in increased-risk situations such as those providing toileting and feeding services.

When students arrive at the building, staff other than the classroom teacher will provide initial screening for COVID-19 symptoms, and any students with symptoms will be directed to a designated quarantine area. Staff members will not be held liable for failing to identify a student with COVID-19.

The district will provide on-site testing for the virus as soon as possible.

Rooms must be properly ventilated, and doors or windows can remain open even in winter. For rooms without proper ventilation, the district is to provide either an alternate workspace or HEPA filter units. The district is also to ensure that high-efficiency filters provide air exchanges throughout the day.

Students cannot eat in classrooms or workspaces, and masks are required during on-site instruction.

When students abstain from wearing a face covering, or families decide a student will not wear a face covering based on values, those students will be offered comprehensive distance learning. But the district is required to offer other options for students protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Each day, custodians will clean the building. But between cohorts within the same day, certified staff and students may clean common touch areas such as desks, seats, doorknobs and more.

The MOU also provides some additional rights for teachers. For instance, the district agreed in the MOU to not place educators on a new plan of assistance (a disciplinary action) for the 2020-21 school year, "recognizing that educators are facing extraordinary challenges beyond the scope of their normal teaching and specialist duties."

Any educators who have increased health risks under the ADA will provide medical verification and will be involved in discussions about possible reasonable accommodations. Those educators will be given priority to remain in a distance learning assignment. Next priority will be given to those with health risks not covered under the ADA. If distance learning assignments remain, next priority goes to those who live with someone who is high risk or who have significant childcare needs.

When teaching online, teachers do not need to request a substitute for a one-day absence but can notify families and tell students they should work offline for the day.

Educators who are required to stay home due to having COVID-19 symptoms will not have to use their sick leave.

The MOU also provides details on prep time, working from home, office hours and more.

Kristen Wohlers
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