EXETER — The seven school boards in SAU 16 and the New Hampshire branch of the National Education Association (NEA-NH), which represents the teachers and paraprofessional unions for the districts in the SAU, have signed a Memorandum of Agreement regarding employee procedures while schools buildings remain closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Thursday, April 16, Gov. Chris Sununu announced that schools statewide would continue remote instruction and support through the rest of the academic year after it was originally set to end on April 3 and later extended to May 4.
The extended closure of school buildings is an unprecedented step in limiting the potential spread of COVID-19 and continuing the practice of social distancing as more positive cases and deaths are announced in the state each day.
This joint agreement was signed on Thursday and went into effect immediately. This temporary agreement is only for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year and does not replace the current collective bargaining agreements within the district.
“While each professional association usually negotiates with their respective school board, we were able to work together to come to this joint agreement for the benefit of all students, teachers, and staff in the district,” said SAU 16 Joint Board Chair Travis Thompson. “Due to the unprecedented nature of this pandemic, we believed we needed to respond in an unprecedented fashion to enable educators to complete their work and support student learning while working remotely.”
“During this crisis, remote learning is a necessary, temporary response that protects the health and safety of our students, members and their families,” said Megan Tuttle, President of NEA-NH. “We are happy to reach this agreement to help ensure the continuity and consistency of our student’s education and recognizes the important contribution every educator makes regardless of their job description. We’re looking forward to achieving the same result in districts across the state.”
The agreement states that for the remainder of the school year:
- All union employees will receive their regular salaries or hourly wages, including regular benefits and any previously agreed upon stipends, during the school closures.
- Closures will not impact an employee’s sick leave, unless that employee is unable to perform his or her remote teaching or job duties due to an illness. If an employee is sick, they will need to let their school principal know. Those who are out under the Family and Medical Leave Act are able to return to work early if they are able to perform their duties remotely, but will still need approval from the district before returning to work.
- All employees must check their email regularly during normal school hours and reach out regularly to their students to check in.
- All employees shall actively lead remote instruction four days a week, while providing support and check ins with students. All employees will have one flex day to be used for grading, assessments, planning, team meetings, professional development and end of the year wrap up. Assignments will be communicated to students no later than Monday morning and the weekly flex day will be determined by their school’s administrator.
- All teachers shall complete their work for the year by Tuesday, June 9. The last day of work for support staff, such as paraprofessionals, in the district will be Thursday, June 4.
- Each school in the district will work with the Association leadership to determine a day when employees are able to enter their respective schools to prepare their classrooms for the 2020-21 school year.
The temporary agreement also allowed for a modified April Break, which was held from Wednesday, April 8 to Friday, April 10.
The full agreement can be found here.
In all, there are 10 unions in the district: the Brentwood Teachers Association, the Exeter Education Association, the Exeter Paraprofessional Association, the Exeter Cooperative Paraprofessional Association, the East Kingston Teachers Association, the Kensington Education Association, the Newfields Teachers Association, the Newfields Paraprofessional Association, the Stratham Teachers Association and the Stratham Paraprofessional Association.
COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, was declared a global pandemic earlier this year by the World Health Organization and has moved Governor Chris Sununu to declare a State of Emergency in New Hampshire and President Donald Trump to declare a national emergency.