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Independent Voice

Dixon Teachers Protest Return to School Plan; School Delay to August 24

Aug 07, 2020 12:00AM ● By By Debra Dingman

Dixon teachers concerned for their safety used a parade of vehicles several times during the day with signs to protest not getting the option to work from home to teach their students via online sources. Photo by Debra Dingman

Dixon Teachers Protest Return to School Plan; School Delay to August 24 [2 Images] Click Any Image To Expand

DIXON, CA (MPG) - This past week about 30 cars became protest tools by the teachers of Dixon Unified School District as they honked and drove around the District office several times with signs taped to their vehicles saying "If we’re not healthy, we can’t teach."

After the District deemed students were going to learn from a distance and not be physically located inside schools, the focus turned to where the teacher would actually instruct from: Their classroom or their home.

During a 3- hour school board meeting last week with about 50 teachers participating, the required amount of screen time for children and rigidity of schedules were areas of concern by teachers. But ultimately, there were so many issues that some spilled out onto social platforms the next day to involve parents.

Chloe Bair, a CA Jacobs Middle School English teacher reached out to parents on Facebook to say that teacher morale in Dixon is low right now and she wanted to "encourage parents and teachers to work together in undeniably stressful times."

"Many of your students' teachers are feeling demoralized and frustrated," she said. "Many teachers have been begging for guidance and paid time to collaborate with the District. Many teachers have been leading efforts to try and figure out what we are going to virtually teach in the Fall and how we are going to teach it, while District leadership has prioritized deciding where teachers should conduct this virtual learning from. We are worried for the education and well-being of your children," she said.

Some middle school teachers still did not know what subjects they were going to be teaching. Some parents talked about the benefits of homeschooling and others brought up budgetary concerns like having all the equipment they need for their child's in-home lessons.

The school has 1,800 computers but parents were still concerned with getting necessary supplies like earphones, dry erase boards, and other school needs. Traditionally, there is a list for each school of what the students need but because they didn't know how they would return to school, parents seemed at a loss. School is one week away [unless there is some change in plans after press time.]

"Other districts are adapting to utilizing different teaching platforms such as, Schoology, and have spent the last few weeks training and prepping," said one parent who thought the DUSD should apply the same formats. Several hoped the Board would delay the start of school until everyone was better prepared. Woodland school district pushed back the first day of their school from August 19 to August 31, for example.

Note: At a Special Meeting on Monday, August 3, the Governing Board of the School District voted to delay the start of the school year by two weeks. The new start date will be August 24 instead of August 10.

Dixon teachers are demonstrating while their teachers’ union's bargaining team negotiates with the District because they want the choice to provide distance learning from their classrooms or from the safety of their homes.

"Some teachers feel comfortable conducting virtual learning from campus and some do not," said Bair. "We are highly educated professionals who have dedicated years of time and service to our students and this community and we believe we deserve to be trusted enough to make our own decisions about the risks we are willing to take during this pandemic while we provide our students with the highest quality education possible."

Several teachers expressed that they have already proven their ability to provide strong, effective, and consistent education to the students through their "moment's notice" in the Spring.

"We proved we could do it with a moment's notice in the Spring and know we can do it again in the Fall, regardless of our physical locations," Bair said. "Unfortunately, the Dixon Unified School Board and the District Superintendent are insistent that teachers return to their respective campuses for distance learning instruction."

Board President Luke Foster said one could not compare Zoom Board Meetings with classroom instruction.

"With respect to board meetings, there is no real impact to the process from Zoom board meetings. While we may have had some awkwardness and pains learning the system, we have never had more participation and have a higher quality presentation, as the screen in the board chambers is often not very visible but presentations can be clearly seen over Zoom. I actually believe that Zoom has been better for board meetings, but most importantly is this: holding board meetings over zoom does not impact the teaching of the students or the learning of the students."

"They're saying that it won't be safe to teach at school but the plan we have is one where teachers have their own classroom; the rooms are sterilized; the teachers are in their rooms by themselves; and they will be using their [own classroom] equipment," he said. Common areas such as restrooms and copy rooms will be sterilized/cleaned no different than what is legally required in any other setting in California per recent health standards due to the pandemic.

District Superintendent Brian Dolan went over the complete plan/system with the County Health Department Director and he said the plan was good, Foster reported. The District has also included an 'Accommodation Application' for those teachers with special needs.

"The plan is for them to be safe and we want them to succeed," Foster said. "But, there's a ton of issues, such as what if there are computer issues, for example? We have an IT guy at the schools. What about copies? Whose printer will you use? There are liability issues because we can't have control over your house and there are sub issues. If you take everything home and then get sick, how can a sub take over your class? The biggest issue is that when you work from home, there's more distractions. Fewer distractions means better teaching for the students," he said.

Bair feels the district may have teachers quit if not given the option. More discussions were scheduled at press time.