School board and teachers’ union reach agreement to give teachers more time for planning

Students receive their class schedules and homework on the first day of school at Homestake Peak at EagleVail.
Chris Dillmann / Vail Daily Archive

Even though the schools in Eagle County are back to five days of in-person learning this year, it has been anything but a return to normal. With staffing issues and replacement shortages making it difficult to staff classrooms, teachers and staff have stepped up to fill the gaps, ensuring that students stay in the classroom, often to the detriment of their own. planning time.

Last week, the school board and teachers’ union passed an amendment to the district collective agreement to give teachers more planning time.

“This year in some ways seems more difficult than last year, and I think it’s because there were things that weren’t on the plates last year, but now we’re still struggling with the pandemic and COVID and trying to have a normal year on top of that, ”said Amy Vanwel, principal of Berry Creek Middle School.

Vanwel made the statement at a bargaining meeting on September 15, where members of the Eagle County school leadership as well as members of the Eagle County Education Association met to seek solutions to his problems. staff and the burden these shortages place on schools.

At the end of this meeting, the bargaining team reached an agreement in which they proposed to amend the district collective agreement. This change gave principals the latitude to redistribute the agreement’s mandatory 75 minutes per week to the professional learning community, giving teachers time for planning.

With the current situation of substitutes – where only 30% of teachers are able to get subs to cover their classrooms – many teachers have given up their planning time to replace their colleagues.

“We’ve already shifted all of our essential professional development time to times that don’t conflict with teaching. In other words, evenings or weekends, before or after school to limit the time teachers do not spend in class, ”Superintendent Philip Qualman said at the Council meeting. September 22 education. “We are run out of time.”

The collective agreement amendment states that schools, “in conjunction with representation from the Eagle County Education Association, will create a plan to increase the individual plan’s time for educators to complete their duties,” specifically noting that this time may come from the 75 minutes of weekly professional learning time.

“We all want to protect the LPC’s time, but we also want to protect teachers,” Doug Little, a teacher at Eagle Valley Elementary and a member of the Eagle County Education Association bargaining team, said during negotiations.

For this reason, the change will only be temporary and will last until the end of the year. However, Qualman noted that if the shortage of substitutes decreases, the change could be reassessed by the bargaining team.

The agreement also states that the district will keep an “ongoing report” on how this professional learning community time is being changed “so that some schools are not significant outliers in this amendment.” Qualman said.

This addressed concerns from the teachers’ union that the amendment lacked “safeguards” to ensure that principals returned this time to teachers.

The school board voted unanimously to adopt the change at its September 22 meeting, following the teachers’ union, which voted to ratify the change the day before.

At the board meeting, several directors of the education board spoke about the high stress and challenges teachers face and noted how this change might help.

“We are hearing more and more comments from our teams on the cumulative responsibilities; How they should really take over for their colleagues. I know everyone feels guilty for taking the personal time they have, ”said Michelle Stecher, director of the school board. “I think that seems like a solution to devote a little more time to them. I think that honors a lot of the comments we hear. “

Amid staff and replacement shortages, the district is also looking for creative solutions to recruit and retain teachers and staff.

Although the district has already had discussions with the teachers’ union and the school board, the school board is organizing a special meeting Tuesday, September 28, to discuss “creative steps” that could be taken, depending on the meeting agenda. This meeting will take place from 5 p.m. at the Edwards Early Learning Center.

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