San Diego, CA–The San Diego Unified School District and its educators have agreed on a plan to “give students the recovery they deserve,” following the pandemic.
The proposal is part of a tentative agreement between San Diego Unified and the San Diego Education Association, effective through June 30, 2022 pending ratification by both parties.
The agreement allows San Diego Unified and educators to take the first step toward meeting the academic and social-emotional needs of students following unprecedented school closures brought on by COVID-19.
The primary purpose of the plan is to accelerate student learning in the year ahead by giving students extra time and attention from teachers, counselors, school nurses and psychologists. Under the agreement, some 86 teachers will be assigned to help reduce elementary school class sizes. The district and educators are also reviewing class sizes for high school, the visual and performing arts, and physical education.
“This collaborative agreement will give students the recovery they deserve while honoring the hard work of our educators during these extraordinary times,” Board of Education President Richard Barrera said. “We know that when our students return to five days of instruction in the fall, they will need more time with teachers, counselors, nurses and psychologists to meet their academic and social-emotional needs. This plan takes an important step toward addressing those needs.”
To help retain teachers, the agreement calls for a 4% on-schedule salary increase effective July 1, 2021.
Even amid a statewide teacher shortage, San Diego Unified teachers have an average of 14 years in the classroom.
“Together, we’ve reached an agreement that invests directly in the classroom,” SDEA President Kisha Borden said. “After a challenging year for our students and educators we wanted to ensure that back to school means more support from teachers , nurses, counselors, and support staff and that will happen with this agreement.”
The agreement will address how to protect schools from staffing declines due to temporary decreases in enrollment that were triggered by the pandemic. A drop in enrollment – especially in kindergarten – could have produced a decrease in educators at some schools since staffing is generally linked to school size. San Diego Unified and its educators have agreed to convene a joint committee to review the pandemic’s impact on staffing.
Many special education students will receive extra time and attention with their teachers, under the tentative agreement. To increase hiring, new special education teachers will receive a $4,000 hiring incentive, as will educators currently teaching in general education who also hold a special education credential and agree to be transferred to special education. Smaller caseloads, although not new, will now be guaranteed at the following levels:
* Caseloads for Mod/Severe Educators and separate setting classes will be maintained at a hard cap of 12 students.
* Deaf and Hard of Hearing caseload caps will be maintained at 10 students.
* Speech and Language Pathologists at elementary and secondary schools will be capped at 55, and Early Childhood at 40.
The COVID-19 crisis exacerbated long-standing concerns regarding student health, especially mental health. The agreement calls for additional nurses, counselors and school psychologists:
* Eight additional nurses including: five for vision screening, two for hearing screening, and one for immunization program support
* Reduce number of elementary schools that counselors are assigned to cover (from three to two)
* Increase allocation formula for middle and high school counselors (rounding up)
* Add at least 12 new school psychologists
* Raise the minimum number of psychologists from 65 to 95
The recovery efforts developed collaboratively by educators and the district focus on providing students additional time and attention with teachers, and prioritize expanded health and safety measures, including mental health. Each of these areas was highlighted as a national priority in the American Rescue Plan Act legislation and as state priorities in the May Revise and Legislative Budget.