PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – While many may wish to settle in for the upcoming holiday, educators with Portland Public Schools say that losing their healthcare is top of mind.
As of Thursday afternoon, school has been canceled through Friday – pushing the district’s next possible day to have classes land on Nov. 27.
The two sides signed tentative agreements on at least four things including instructional time and retirement, but remain at odds on bigger issues like cost-of-living adjustments and class sizes.
According to PPS, Thursday was also the deadline for teachers to get back into the classroom before losing their health coverage in December.
In response, the Oregon Education Association said they will step in to cover insurance costs during a strike — though it’s unclear how long that could last.
PPS teacher Brian Halberg said he’s upset with how the district is handling healthcare.
“I think right now, our members are here because they’re standing up for what’s right and for the district to even discuss the idea of withholding health insurance for our members would be appalling,” Halberg said.
Meanwhile, teachers continue to push for cost of living adjustments, mental health supports and classroom sizes — sticking points they say the district isn’t compromising enough on.
PPS passed a settlement package Wednesday night that included more planning time and a class-size adjustment process, but the Portland Association of Teachers responded by saying it still wasn’t enough.
The Portland Association of Teachers released a statement to KOIN about the decision.
“Without conferring with the Portland Association of Teachers bargaining team, and in the middle of an otherwise productive bargaining day, PPS district managers made the unilateral decision to keep schools closed through November 27th. It’s unfortunate the district made this decision. Even though Monday and Tuesday are parent teacher conference days, these count as instructional days. Portland educators plan to continue bargaining and are hopeful that a fair settlement can be reached that would get students back to school and allow the first half of next week to be used as planning days or even possibly for student instruction.”
PPS responded with a statement of their own.
“Next Monday and Tuesday (Nov. 20 and 21) were set aside for educators to conduct family-teacher academic conferences. These in-person visits or online conversations afford a critical opportunity for our educators and families to connect, discuss students’ educational progress, and identify ways to support students’ success.
It is critical that our educators have sufficient opportunity to evaluate student work and complete grading in order to best prepare for these conversations. Given the current strike and closure of school, that time has not been available and, therefore, we need to cancel next week’s conferences.
As a bargaining update, PAT has just responded to our proposal from yesterday, and we are beginning to assess it. Our latest proposals address more planning and preparation time for teachers, strategies for lowering class size, and proactive measures for addressing school building concerns.
Given where we are in the day, though, there will be no school tomorrow (Friday, Nov. 17). Because school was already closed next week, this means our next possible day to reopen schools would be Monday, Nov. 27.
We continue to bargain, and the last few days have left us hopeful for a resolution. Once we reach an agreement with the Portland Association of Teachers, we will be able to decide whether and how to hold conferences at a later date. We will share a full return-to-school plan when we reach an agreement, including when student instructional time or school days may be made up.
We have appreciated your patience and flexibility during this challenging time. We recognize this strike has disrupted lives and are continuing to work towards a financially responsible, student-centered contract that honors our educators.”