FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – With Fresno Unified School District and its educators awaiting the results of the Fresno Teachers Association strike vote, the district is still working to hire substitutes to meet the demand left by potentially 4,000 teachers on strike.
According to Fresno Unified Superintendent Bob Nelson, the district has added hundreds of substitutes in the past week.
“It’s 23, 2,400 now. The goal is just to be as prepared as you can be knowing that you’ll have a number of people striking, some that potentially won’t. So, do you have adequate coverage to make sure you can keep your schools open safe, and available?” he said.
As of now, Fresno Unified School District plans to continue to hire certified, background-checked substitutes.
But if the demand isn’t met that way, they plan to fall back on school administrators to help fill the need left by potentially thousands of teachers on strike.
“There are a number at every site who were previously teachers and hold a certificate to be in a classroom and they may teach in the area of their expertise. If that, you know, comes to that need we will backfill with administrators,” said Nelson.
Although administrators are ready to pick up the slack, Nelson Friday said classrooms could look very different if teachers do decide to join the picket line.
“It’s reasonable to assume there’ll be a number of parents that decide to keep their kids home in the event of a strike and so they may consolidate classrooms by subject level or by grade level,” he said.
However, Nelson says contrary to rumors, it’s very unlikely the district will have to resort to putting students in gymnasiums.
“That would be kind of a worst-case scenario,” said Nelson. “The number of people that are trying to get into the system as a substitute teacher right now is almost as much as we can handle in terms of getting them processed.”
Fresno Unified is offering $500 per day for substitutes, they say they will take those dollars from what they say is the $490 dollars per day the average teacher makes.
They don’t plan to fill the four-thousand-teacher hole entirely.
President of the Fresno Teachers Association Manuel Bonilla, meanwhile, issued us a statement that reads in part:
“After months of dismissing educators’ concerns, Fresno Unified is in full panic mode. The district is actively endorsing intimidation of our educators, just as they cast a critical vote that could deliver the change that is needed for our children.”
The FTA strike vote will be finalized on Monday.
After that, Nelson says the district and union plan to start negotiations again on Tuesday.