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Some sports will continue during a Fresno teachers strike, district officials confirmed.
The Fresno Teachers Association announced Tuesday morning that they’ll go on strike starting next Wednesday, Nov. 1, unless a new deal can be reached beforehand.
Union officials did not say how long a potential FTA strike might last.
Meanwhile, the district plans to keep schools open for the over 70,000 students and deploy thousands of substitute teachers at a pay rate of $500 a day.
Here’s what parents should know about what the district has planned so far.
Who will teach my children during a Fresno teachers strike?
The district is turning to substitute teachers and management staff to take over instruction during the FTA strike.
As of Tuesday, the district has a pool of nearly 2,300 qualified substitutes who have gone through background checks and fingerprinting, district spokesperson Nikki Henry said in an interview with Fresnoland. They have about 150 management staff also available to fill in gaps, plus a “couple hundred” more potential subs going through screening processes.
Meanwhile, FTA President Manuel Bonilla predicted Tuesday that more than 3,000 teachers would take to picket lines next week.
Henry said the district is confident they have enough staff because they’re predicting lower-than-usual attendance during the strike.
“A normal day is 92%. We know that some folks just will not send their kids during a strike, so we’re estimating 85% attendance,” she said. “When you look at that over about 72,000 kids, then that takes you down to about 61,000 kids. When you divide that by 2,300 that gives you an average class size of 27 students per class.”
She acknowledged there may be some variation between individual schools and said the district will be deploying subs as needed and “redeploying them” based on differences in attendance.
What if I keep my kids at home during the FTA strike?
The district has communicated to parents that students who miss school during the days of the strike will not have their absences excused.
Grades students receive during the strike will also be recorded per usual and won’t be made up or modified after the fact, the district shared in September.
Despite that, some parents plan to keep their children home.
“We don’t cross picket lines in our family,” said Kaylia Metcalfe-Armstrong, mother of a sixth grader at Bullard Talent K-8 School.
Metcalfe-Armstrong said she also has questions about how well the district’s substitutes will be able to teach in specialized programs, like her daughter’s art-oriented curriculum at Bullard Talent or dual immersion classes.
“You can’t tell me that in the last month-and-a-half, Fresno Unified hired a thousand new substitutes who are all going to be able to provide even half of the kind of specialized education that the regular teachers do,” she said.
Superintendent Bob Nelson said students won’t just sit in the gym watching movies all day during the strike.
Henry said the substitutes are qualified and the same ones that fill in for the district’s teachers when they miss work.
“Of course, we realize the ideal learning environment is your classroom teacher in the class,” she added. “That teacher knows you as an individual. But we are still very confident in our substitutes, that they’re qualified and will keep the learning going.”
Despite this, the union has encouraged parents to keep their children at home during the strike.
Bonilla, FTA’s president, said parents have the option to either “put the trust in a random babysitter that your child will be (with) during the strike” or to “bring this strike to a quick end and keep your kids safe at home.”
Fresno Unified Board President Veva Islas told Fresnoland that demand struck her as “unrealistic” for many families in the district, particularly low-income and single-parent households.
Metcalfe-Armstrong said that she’s opening up her home to other children whose parents may be unable to afford to stay home with their children during the strike. She expects five to seven additional children to come to her house those days.
Can my kid still take the bus to school during the FTA strike?
At an Oct. 18 board meeting, Nelson said that buses will still take students to and from school.
The Fresno Teachers Association primarily represents the district’s teachers, social workers, and nurses.
Other employees like bus drivers, represented by separate unions, aren’t allowed to participate in a “sympathy strike” due to language in their own contracts and could be disciplined for walking off the job, Nelson said.
Are sports and field trips canceled because of the teachers strike?
Extracurricular activities like sports games, field trips, clubs, and community meetings will be canceled during a strike, Nelson announced at the last board meeting.
The only exception is high school sports. Henry confirmed games will run as scheduled but will all be away games at the opposing team’s respective facility.
The union plans to screen additional parent questions about their own strike plans in front of schools on Friday.