Fresno Teachers Association is concerned about COVID-19, asks for more district communication

KSEE24 News

FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) – As COVID-19 cases rise in schools, the Fresno Teachers Association is asking for better communication from the Fresno Unified School District in regards to COVID-19 safety guidelines. They’re asking the district to implement their 10-point action plan.

“We are more concerned about the beginning of this year than we were last year,” Fresno Teachers Association President Manuel Bonilla said.

Bonilla said many educators and staff are feeling anxiety and stress, adding that only 34% of the union’s members said that Fresno Unified had clearly communicated the details about COVID-19 protocols.

Among the requests in the 10-point action plan was a COVID-19 dashboard that includes the number of students and staff who have tested positive as well as those in quarantine. Earlier that same day, the district announced one.

The dashboard shows that so far in August, 394 students and staff have tested positive for COVID-19. It does not include how many people are in quarantine.

In the midst of high case rates and volumes of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 in the Central Valley, districts are battling to keep students in class.

“It’s hard to run school in a pandemic, and kids learn best when they are in person in school. Those are both simultaneously true,” Fresno Unified Superintendent Bob Nelson said.

Before the start of the school year, Fresno Unified had information that outlined the safety guidelines, but Bonilla said there needs to be more clarity.

“Just because somebody has information doesn’t mean they understand what’s going on. Part of the failure here is the lack of instructing folks, lack of making sure that everybody is on the same page across the whole district,” Bonilla said.

Nelson agreed that protocols should be the same across the district.

“We know we need COVID-19 protocols uniformed across the district,” Nelson said.

Educators are also getting close to the Oct. 15 deadline, when schools must be in compliance with the state’s policy that requires school staff to be fully vaccinated or get regularly tested.

Bonilla said of their members, 82% indicated that they’ve been vaccinated.

The 10-point safety plan the union is asking the district to implement include:

  1. Communicate and implement uniform COVID-19 protocols districtwide.
  2. Provide a recalibration (in-service day) for all employees and a town hall for community members.
  3. Create and clearly communicate an efficient process to provide an adequate amount of personal protective equipment for each classroom and school site.
  4. Establish a FUSD COVID-19 data dashboard.
  5. FUSD should provide a vaccine incentive for eligible students ($50 gift card)
  6. Extend COVID-19 supplemental leave for all FUSD employees
  7. Cover COVID-19-related sick time for breakthrough infections for all vaccinated employees, without negative impact to the employees sick time.
  8. Create and implement districtwide COVID-19 testing for all students and employees.
  9. Collaborate with labor groups to increase the FUSD substitute pool
  10. Provide additional classroom resources for teachers

Bonilla said they have a track record of working with the district and want to find solutions.

“There’s a lot of confusion, there’s a lot of anxiety. We’re saying that let’s find a solution, let’s recalibrate before things get worse,” Bonilla said.

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