The Portland Teachers Union asked to cancel in-person classes for high school students once a week beginning after winter break to help educators and students "adjust to the stresses" of returning to the classroom since the start of the pandemic, according to The Oregonian.
In a proposal last week, the Portland Association of Teachers explained that the designated day-off from in-person instruction would allow them more time to prepare lesson plans while students "teach themselves" from home, presumably online.
The Teachers Union also proposed that students in grades K-8 would either arrive two hours late or be sent home two hours early to give teachers more time to prepare lessons. The union alleges that teachers are struggling to develop plans that make up for lost learning because of the pandemic.
Negotiators with the union voiced that district officials and the schools' principals will be able to decide which day the school will take off or release their students early or late.
Upon reviewing the proposal, district officials were skeptical and said they were worried the changes in schedule would negatively impact students that have already been impacted from lack of in-person instruction due to the pandemic, specifically minority students and students with English as a second language.
"Converting in-person instruction to asynchronous time may create inequities as we believe direct contact with teachers is the most beneficial for our students, particularly since they were in comprehensive distance learning for an extended period of time," Portland deputy superintendent for instruction Shawn Bird told The Oregonian.
In contrast, a Portland Public School teacher told the district that the extra time for teachers to prepare lesson plans is vital because teachers are considering leaving the profession given the longer work weeks to make up for time lost during the pandemic.
Steve Lancaster, a social sciences teacher at Lincoln High School and chair of the union's bargaining unit, said that both educators and students are overwhelmed with the workload and that 25 percent of teachers said in a survey that they are working more than 60 hours per week.
"That is not sustainable. There needs to be some kind of relief valve somewhere and this provides some of that for educators," Lancaster said.
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