Portland teachers propose limiting in-person classes

Multnomah County

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As both staff and students continue to feel the stress of in-person instruction, the Portland Association of Teachers is proposing canceling in-person classes for some students once a week.

The teachers union says many teachers are working 60+ hour work weeks, with half of the teachers considering leaving the profession altogether. They also say that students are more overwhelmed and stressed than ever before and it’s showing in their school work. 

The union’s proposal also comes at a time many educators and parents say there’s been an increase in behavioral issues in schools around the area.

The PAT and Portland Public Schools held an online meeting Monday to discuss what the curriculum and workload would look like for teachers and students.

The proposal includes canceling in-person classes for high school students once a week, most likely on Fridays when many students have all eight of their 44-minute period classes. On those days, students would instead be expected to do self-directed learning from home and teachers would be available virtually for students that need extra help while utilizing extra time for planning.

For K-8 students, the union is proposing either a 2-hour late start or early release on the same day high schoolers would have a flex day. 

“Our students are displaying unprecedented levels of stress, self-reporting being very overwhelmed by their return to school, by their workload, by the expectations, just by the new environment that is school in the time of a pandemic,” said Steve Lancaster, the Chair of the PAT Bargaining Team.

He continued saying he’s never seen this “degree of stress, anxiety and the feeling of being overwhelmed” from students during his 20 years in the classroom.

However, some parents say less time in the classroom isn’t the answer — and district leaders agree.

“The issues that are I think causing the teachers to feel sort of overworked and tired are the result of not being in school,” Kim McGair, a parent of a PPS 10th grader, said. “So the solution to the problems of remote school is not more remote school.”

Dr. Shawn Bird, the PPS deputy superintendent, says that while they agree with the teacher’s union that this has been a very challenging time, they “know our students need us now more than ever.”

“The district cannot support any proposal that reduces in-person instructional time, full days of instructional time,” Bird said.

The district did say they’re open to other parts of the union’s proposal that will help teachers and are willing to continue to work toward other solutions that don’t take students out of the classroom. 

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