Northampton School Committee ratifies agreement with staff union

  • Bridge Street School parents wait outside the Northampton elementary for the dismissal of students shortly after noon on Friday, March 13, 2020, at the end of a previously scheduled half day.  GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 9/16/2020 3:30:53 PM

NORTHAMPTON — “Just in the nick of time.” That’s how Mayor David Narkewicz described the timing of the ratified agreement between the School Committee and the Northampton Association of School Employees, or NASE, about conditions for returning to school.

On Tuesday night, the eve before school started virtually on Wednesday, the committee voted unanimously to ratify a memorandum of agreement for the remote learning period with NASE — the union that represents teachers, education support professionals, cafeteria workers and other school employees.

It’s a “major step” in reopening schools, said Emily Serafy-Cox, chair of the negotiations subcommittee. Starting Sept. 21, prioritized students — those with individualized education programs, preschool students, English language learners and homeless students and some others — can go into school buildings.

Late last week, Superintendent John Provost and NASE President Andrea Egitto sent out a joint statement to families answering some questions and summarizing what NASE and the School Committee had agreed to thus far, but the two groups hadn’t yet concluded their negotiations. On Wednesday, Provost thanked those from the School Committee and NASE who participated in negotiations “for their commitment to this process. They engaged in many long nights of collaborative conversation to ensure we had an agreement in place for the first day of school,” he wrote in an email.

Egitto agreed it was a collaborative process. 

“Our main focus was finding safe places in the building that have adequate ventilation for the in-person work,” she said. “I feel like that was successful, and our members seemed comforted by the fact that this was going to be keeping everyone safe — both staff and students.”

The agreement stipulates that staff working in school buildings will get personal protective equipment and that rooms with the highest rate of air change per hour will be used for in-person classes. Teachers, administrators and education support professionals who work closely with students in person during remote learning will receive an additional $500-per-quarter stipend.

The memorandum of agreement also includes metrics for when in-person services would stop. “If the  average daily case rate in Northampton, Easthampton, or Holyoke is 8 or more cases per 100,000 … all in-person services shall pause immediately,” the agreement reads.

Wednesdays will be used for teacher preparation time and for teachers to check in with students, and each month, half of a Wednesday will be used for professional development centering on anti-bias, anti-racist and restorative practices. For all students, Thursday and Friday are half days.

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com.


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