The Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA), the State of Hawaii, and Board of Education have agreed on a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to allow continuity of education next school year with certain contract modifications while assuring the safety of educators and students. The MOU also guarantees teachers’ and HSTA representatives’ involvement in collaboration with the employer to improve operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. This MOU will be treated as a supplemental to the master agreement and applies to all Bargaining Unit 05 employees, including public charter school teachers.
It is very important that every educator reads the entire agreement, or at least familiarizes themselves with key points of the summary below.
The HSTA Negotiations Team worked around the clock over the last week preparing for bargaining and meeting with the employer, working out the last pieces of the agreement Saturday afternoon. Saturday evening, the Negotiations Committee unanimously voted to recommend the MOU for approval by the Board of Directors (BOD). After thorough debate by the BOD, the vote was overwhelming to approve the tentative agreement in order to ensure a number of protections as we start the 2020–21 school year.
Throughout the negotiations, HSTA focused on securing the best possible language for our members. We used the results of HSTA’s recent surveys from members, guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Board of Education’s June 18 resolution regarding reopening of schools, as well as other resources such as National Education Association (NEA) guidance and other State of Hawaii and Department of Health guidance.
Our main priorities included looking to health expertise for the safest practices, providing educator voice in making decisions, assuring protections, and advocating for equity of treatment and resources for our members.
The Employer agreed to nearly every HSTA proposal on school and worksite health and safety. This includes a commitment to prioritize the health and safety of students and staff, and an expectation that “schools and worksites shall work to minimize the risk of COVID-19 spread … reducing opportunity for the spread of respiratory droplets … by maintaining six (6) feet … of separation between and among students and staff members … whenever possible.” The agreement also includes language that says all “individuals, including employees, students, and campus visitors should wear face coverings” especially “in circumstances where sufficient physical distancing is difficult or impossible, within 6 feet of others.” It should be noted that there are exceptions to the face-covering for situations such as when it is not safe or poses a medical risk. The agreement also assures proper cleaning and disinfecting, cleaning and hygiene supplies, personal protective equipment (PPE), and guaranteed reimbursement if supplies are not available and teachers have to purchase.
With that that said, the state did not agree with every one of our demands. They were unwilling to agree to any blanket guarantee of telework or to provide child care for public school teachers whose children are impacted by hybrid schedules. They were also unwilling to agree to negotiate anything mandating specific classroom configurations, health and safety processes and procedures, or a 100-percent mask rule with no exceptions.
Soon you will hear about the opportunity to participate in a virtual briefing. HSTA UniServ Directors will schedule a series of general member briefings in the next week. Members should be on the lookout for more information to be communicated from your HSTA school-level leaders. We also will schedule a private webinar to brief our HSTA school, chapter, and state leaders on Monday, June 29, at 1 p.m. SLLs will receive a separate email shortly with a link and instructions to register for that event. In addition, we will provide members with a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) as soon as possible.
It is very important that every educator reads the entire agreement, or at least familiarizes themselves with key points of the following summary.
Health and safety
HSTA strongly believes that the Hawaii Department of Health needs to provide clear guidance before in-person schooling resumes. We also believe it should be done in line with CDC-issued guidance on considerations for schools reopening. The CDC provides a wide variety of considerations for schools “in collaboration with state and local health officials” when implementing educational programs. This is why the HSTA insisted on language that requires the following: “In-person school will resume in conjunction with written guidance from the state of Hawaii Department of Health (DOH).”
Teacher voice in COVID-19 response
Page 2, lines 39–45
The HSTA and Employer will hold regular COVID-19 Response Meetings at least once a month at the state level to discuss how to improve response to the pandemic. The same type of meetings will also take place monthly at the school and worksite level with the Association Policy Committee (APC) and other HSTA representatives with their administrators. This includes discussing health and safety, continuity of education plans, contingency plans for school closures, and communication with the community.
This language is very important as it is a commitment by the employer to ensure HSTA leaders at the state or school level have the right to regular meetings to discuss and address concerns and needed changes and adjustments to improve response to the pandemic.
Social and physical distancing
Page 3, lines 62–98
- Schools and worksites shall work to minimize the risk of COVID-19 by “maintaining six (6) feet or two (2) arms’ length (whichever is longer) of separation between and among students and staff members in meeting spaces and exterior school grounds whenever possible.”
- Each campus, classroom, and office will have adequate supplies including soap, hand sanitizer, paper towels, etc.
- If students eat meals in classrooms, teachers will not have to supervise them, preserving the duty-free lunch clause of HSTA’s contract.
- Each campus will designate and prepare a space for conducting in-person parent and guardian meetings so they don’t have to take place in classrooms.
- All teachers will have the option to participate in any meeting through teleconferencing.
Personal protective equipment (PPE)
Page 5, lines 99–116
- All individuals, including employees, students, and campus visitors, should wear face coverings that cover the mouth and nose consistent with public health guidance. In circumstances where sufficient physical distancing is difficult or impossible, within 6 feet of others, face coverings should be worn; with some exceptions such as age or medical condition.
- Teachers can use face shields, which enable younger students to see their teachers’ faces and to avoid potential barriers to phonological instruction.
- Employees whose assignment places them at greater risk for exposure to COVID-19 will be provided appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Each teacher may request a face shield and a supply of face coverings for students. If not available, with approval, teachers may purchase their own supplies and be reimbursed.
Cleaning and disinfecting
Page 5, lines 117–135
- Teachers will not be required to clean or disinfect classrooms, or other non-professional custodial duties, which are not part of a teacher’s job responsibilities.
- The campus, classrooms, and offices will be cleaned and disinfected on a routine and frequent basis.
- Surfaces frequently touched by multiple people will be cleaned and disinfected at least daily.
- Each campus, classroom, and office has adequate cleaning supplies, including disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer. If supplies are not available, employees, with approval, may purchase such supplies and be reimbursed.
Supports for teachers and continuity of learning
Page 6, lines 139–171
HSTA strongly believes in the need to address time to plan, prepare, and adjust to the changes needed for school year 2020–21 and to provide teachers the necessary resources to engage in distance and blended learning programs.
The HSTA and Employer agreed to the following: “The most effective instructional methods involve face-to-face, in-person programs. However, Hawaii’s public schools do not have enough classroom space to allow all students to receive face-to-face, in-person instruction with the necessary and proper physical distancing needed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools will need to implement distance and blended learning programs to ensure continuity of instructional programming for all students.”
The following provisions support and facilitate distance and blended learning programs:
- Teachers will be provided ongoing support including equipment, internet access, guidance on the use of online learning platforms, and technical support.
- August 4, 2020 is designated as the first instructional day of school. The first nine (9) days of instruction will consist of half-days for students, including lunch, and the remaining time in the day will be utilized for training and planning. Teachers will be provided no less than one (1) hour each day for teacher-initiated preparation.
- Teachers who are care coordinators of students with special needs will be provided, in the first quarter, no less than three (3) hours per student to address any preparation, facilitate assessments, and lead conversations related to possible compensatory services and/or extended school year services.
- To ensure all schools can maximize student-learning time, the HIDOE will seek a waiver from federally mandated testing from the United States Department of Education (USDOE) for school year 2020–21.
Instructional models for school year 2020–21
Page 8, lines 172–225
Schools will need to modify their models of instructional delivery in school year 2020–21.
All members of Bargaining Unit 05 will be notified of the opportunity to participate in a collaborative faculty discussion in the month of July regarding their school’s instructional model(s) and draft bell schedule.
For purposes of determining an instructional model and draft bell schedule for the start of the year, the meeting will be in July and voluntary. This means the meetings should not occur prior to July 1. The opportunity to participate in the collaborative process will be communicated to all Bargaining Unit 05 members by their principal with at least 48 hours’ notice. The notice will include copies of the proposed instructional model and draft bell schedule changes. The discussion will include the opportunity to present suggestions for improvement to the proposed model, and consensus on an instructional model will be attempted. If the faculty present can’t reach consensus, a vote will be taken and held open for two hours at the conclusion of the presentation for faculty present or not present to vote. If the vote is not approved, the principal shall select a model from the instructional models listed in Section 3(f), line 207 of the MOU.
Safeguards and assurances
Page 10, lines 226–259
In addition to the above, HSTA focused on a few key areas that are needed to further support and protect our members. The agreement includes the following:
- No Bargaining Unit 05 positions will be eliminated because of any instructional model changes for SY 2020–21 and the response to COVID-19.
- Teachers’ privacy, health, and personnel records shall be protected in compliance with the American Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
- Teachers’ privacy will be protected while engaging remotely with students. Teachers cannot be recorded without their permission, and monitoring and observation can only be done openly and with full knowledge of the teacher.
- Teachers may be observed and monitored by administrators for professional support. Any other observation by coaches or mentors may only be done with teacher consent.
- Teachers can’t be forced to share their personal email or phone numbers and may use approved digital platforms, which hide personal phone numbers, for messaging students.
- The Educator Effectiveness System (EES) teacher evaluation process will continue in school year 2020–21. However, in order to assess the impact of COVID-19 response, the EES Joint Committee will meet and provide recommendations to the superintendent no later than July 28 to address any modifications to the EES for school year 2020–21.
- To protect at-risk individuals, teachers will be provided with information regarding access to employee assistance programs (EAP).
- Teachers will also be provided information regarding their right to request Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)accommodations should they have underlying health conditions or risk factors placing them at higher risk from COVID-19. In addition, the superintendent has signed a letter committing to the following: “Teachers who are documented to be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 may be provided options to limit their exposure risk (e.g., telework or modified job opportunities).” This letter of commitment applies to all Bargaining Unit 05 employees of the HIDOE.
- For the duration of COVID-19 pandemic, the following leave provision adjustments shall be followed:
- Per the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), should a teacher need to care for a family member who is ill due to COVID-19 or in a high-risk category, they may use their paid sick leave; and
- Teachers may utilize Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) and/or Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA).
HSTA UniServ Directors will schedule a series of general member briefings in the next week. Members should be on the lookout for more information to be communicated from your HSTA school-level leaders. We also will schedule a private webinar to brief our school-level leaders on Monday, June 29, at 1 p.m. In addition, we will provide members with FAQs as soon as possible.
We know information about the reopening schools has been scarce and the lack of clarity has caused anxiety for all of our members. While we wish we could have gotten even more in the agreement, we are proud of our team and the work that they accomplished under tremendous pressure during an already stressful time. While this agreement does not guarantee every option we sought, we firmly believe it is the best protection we could negotiate given these unprecedented circumstances.
It also gives us options to continue to advocate at both the state and school level to improve and adjust as needed. We will continue to organize and advocate for the best possible working and learning conditions for our members and the students of Hawaii. We plan to continue to speak with the media, the public, as well as testify at the Board of Education to fight for what is right and necessary for a safe school year. HSTA leaders and staff will continue to do our best to support and protect you.
We also would like to express our continued appreciation for the work of the HSTA Negotiations Team. The photo below was taken as the team concluded the last virtual session with the employer.
HSTA’s Negotiations Team:
Paul Daugherty, Chair (Kona); Diane Mokuau, Vice Chair (Molokai); Shannon Kaaa (Honolulu); Lisa Morrison (Maui); Corey Rosenlee, President; Osa Tui, Vice President; Logan Okita, Secretary-Treasurer; Andrea Eshelman, HSTA Deputy Executive Director and Chief Negotiator.