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By Ed Sibby

As facts on the ground regarding the pandemic were continuously shifting in California, Fallbrook High School Teachers Association (FHSTA) leaders saw an opportunity to collaborate and take advantage of federal and state incentives to expand on-campus instruction. After several negotiations sessions, FHSTA and Fallbrook Union High School District (FUHSD) brokered an agreement in April that safely brings students back to school while allowing families the choice to remain in online learning through the end of the school year. We asked FHSTA President Lisa Nava about her experience.

What led your leadership to reach out to FUHSD officials and reopen negotiations?
When FHSTA learned that the district was receiving a state In-Person Instruction Grant and Expanded Learning Opportunity Grant, as well as American Rescue Plan federal aid, I knew it was time to reopen negotiations. It was my job to advocate on behalf of my members to ensure that the money was used to facilitate a safe reopening.

What was the reaction from Fallbrook school officials when you agreed to return to the table?
The superintendent was surprised that we were willing to reopen negotiations. She mentioned she had no intention of approaching me about it, so was happy that I had reached out. I know that she was feeling pressure from the community and from her board to reopen, but clearly wasn’t going to approach the union about it.

How much funding did the district receive by opening rather than remaining in the online model?
The district is set to receive $773,215 from the In-Person Grant, $1,736,920 from the Expanded Learning Opportunity Grant, and approximately $3,040,044 from the American Rescue Plan.

How has this renegotiation created a more collaborative approach to working with district officials?
District officials realized that we are not preventing or standing in the way of a reopening plan, but that we are willing to participate in that process. We want to do what is best for our students, but we also have a voice in ensuring that we return to in-person learning under the safest conditions possible.

Which conditions of the new agreement are you most pleased about?
I am very proud of our MOU. We negotiated terms to have the highest level of safety possible, including the following items:

  • COVID testing to return to the site; monthly rotational COVID testing for staff.
  • Maintain 6 feet of distance between students.
  • Mandatory mask-wearing by all students and staff.
  • Plexiglas barriers in front of all teacher desks and between student desks.
  • Air-purifying machines in every classroom and office.
  • Hand washing stations throughout the campus and hand sanitizer supplies in every classroom.
  • Release time for members to get COVID testing or vaccinations.