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Portland Teachers’ Union Proposes One-Day-a-Week Remote Instruction to Counter Burn Out

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To cushion the transition back to in-person, the Portland teachers’ union has pitched one day of remote instruction a week for high schoolers after winter break.

On Monday, the Portland Association of Teachers proposed cancelling in-person class every Friday, during which teachers would provide small group tutoring online for half the day and let students out of school early so they can use the other half of the day for lesson planning, according to The Oregonian. 

In response to the union’s idea, ED300, an advocacy group with 40,000 members that has lobbied for re-opening schools and in-person learning in Oregon, published a statement opposing it. Eric Happel, a member of ED300 and a parent with three students in the district, wrote: “All available data demonstrates that students have suffered significant learning loss as a result of school closures during the pandemic, with the losses most extreme among our most vulnerable students.”

“While we recognize there are increased burdens this year due to learning loss and behavioral struggles caused by extensive school closures, the solution to the problems of remote school is not more remote school,” Kim McGair, a Portland high school parent said. “Particularly for K-8 students, these reductions in in-person school are a hardship for working parents, including those from our most vulnerable families.”

The teachers’ union has reportedly pushed for self-taught Fridays to ease the stressful switch back to in-person education, which they claim has them working overtime, leaving them drained and leading some to consider early retirement. Supporters of the proposal say students and teachers are experiencing burnout and that it would lighten the load.

Despite the union’s concerns, however, Vanessa Chaves Cochran, a teacher in the Portland Public School District, advocated against the hybrid model, suggesting the district could lessen teachers’ burden by eliminating time-wasting administrative responsibilities instead.

“As a teacher this is SO HARD. But I can’t agree that asynchronous time for kids is a good idea,” Cochran tweeted. “Get rid of our non-essential meetings and duties for sure. Part of the reason it’s so hard right now is that kids are behind both academically and socially. Sending them home won’t help. It also exacerbates the inequities between those students who have parental help at home and those who don’t.”

If Friday instruction were to be eliminated beginning in January, high schoolers would miss out on around 93 hours of class time, 9 percent of the 990 instructional hours mandated by Oregon state law, Oregon Live calculated. The union is expected to iron out negotiations regarding the proposal with the district before Christmas.

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