Sacramento unified to extend school year after teacher strike

Luther Burbank High School English teacher Nichole Scrivener welcomes students on Monday, April 4, 2022, between periods in the hall as students, teachers and staff returned to Sacramento City Unified School District after an eight-day strike by the SCTA and SEIU Local 1021.

Luther Burbank High School English teacher Nichole Scrivener welcomes students on Monday, April 4, 2022, between periods in the hall as students, teachers and staff returned to Sacramento City Unified School District after an eight-day strike by the SCTA and SEIU Local 1021.

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Sacramento students could be in class as late as June 24 in a plan to make up for lost time from this spring’s eight-day teacher strike.

The Sacramento City Unified School District has yet to finalize its school calendar with less than six weeks of scheduled classes. It has proposals to extend the academic year on the table, leaving many parents wondering how to move forward with summer plans.

The district and the Sacramento City Teachers Association both agree that they will add instructional minutes and days to the school year. They haven’t decided exactly how to do it.

The district has proposed to extend all minimum days by one hour and end the school year on June 24 — six school days after the district’s scheduled last day of school.

The district is also proposing that no more than 20% of staff can take leaves of absences in the last week of instruction.

“Our most significant challenge at this point in the process involves staffing,” district officials said in a written statement. “We are trying to reach an agreement that will ensure the district is able to adequately staff schools and classrooms on the added days. We are hopeful the uncertainty surrounding the school calendar will be resolved by the end of this week at the latest. Our families deserve to know if the calendar is going to be extended or not.”

District officials say any future changes to the school calendar will not affect graduation or promotion dates.

The district faces serious state financial penalties that could total tens of millions of dollars if it does not make up class time.

The Sacramento district has a 181-day school year, just one day over the minimum number required by the state for full funding. It has to make up for at least seven strike days to avoid being penalized roughly $47 million by the state.

The teacher and classified staff strike ended April 4, with teachers and staff accepting contracts that included a combination of one-time bonuses and raises. The district and unions have had since then to iron out a plan to account for lost class time.

“The lack of a timely decision (within a week of the resolution of the strike) is incredibly disrespectful to the teachers, the classified staff, the families, and the children,” said district parent Kerry Madden Thomas.

Sacramento students already have summer plans

Some parents told The Sacramento Bee they wouldn’t keep their children in class if the school year extends to June 24. Families have trips planned, camps scheduled and paid for, and teens have summer jobs lined up.

Melissa Cavitt’s daughter plans to head to Washington for soccer playoffs, which begin on June 22. She said that students will also need to miss school for a track meet that week to qualify for the junior Olympics in track and field.

“That is the only meet they can qualify with so if they don’t miss school they will lose their opportunity to compete this summer and the junior Olympics are here in Sacramento,” she said.

Gabrielle Dietrich runs summer camps in the Sacramento area, and said the changes to the schedule will affect her income if children are pulled from her program and ask for refunds for that additional week.

Carrie Lewis-Sanchez said she thinks it would be difficult for teachers to plan important academic lessons that week.

“We certainly would never cancel or rearrange existing summer camp or travel plans for extra school days filled with time waster activities,” said Lewis-Sanchez, a parent of two in the district. “My kid deserves a full summer break after this train wreck of a year.”

Adding one hour per week

One of the earlier plans to make up instructional minutes was to add an hour to each remaining Thursday, starting on May 5.

“Teachers were for it,” Dietrich said. “There was no reason it couldn’t have happened.”

Sacramento City Teachers Association President David Fisher acknowledged extending the school year can be difficult for staff and families.

“It’s less than ideal,” he said. “In understanding that, we proposed to extend the year to make up for lost instruction time and mitigate any ends from the state.”

In their proposal, the district states it will not be liable for any state, federal or employment tax or retirement consequences as a result” of the agreement.

Fisher said this term could be seen as punitive to staff.

Some parents, like Cavitt, said regardless of what the district decides, students should be allowed to move forward with their summer plans, and schools should “establish excused absence parameters that balance important extracurricular opportunities with the need to close the financial gap presented by the penalties.”

District parent Sacha Monpere said she plans to send her children to school if the school year is extended.

“I don’t expect much academically, but I hope they will enjoy one more week with their peers and any teachers that are available,” she said. “They have spent a lot of time at home in the last couple years, I’ll take any semi-structured time.”

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Sawsan Morrar covers school accountability and culture for The Sacramento Bee. She grew up in Sacramento and is an alumna of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. She previously freelanced for various publications including The Washington Post, Vice, KQED and Capital Public Radio.

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