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COVID-19 Increases Fresno Teachers’ Workload. District Bumps Their Pay.



Fresno Unified students have been "deployed" into other classrooms during the pandemic. (Shutterstock)
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Some Fresno Unified teachers will get a mid-year pay bump after the district agreed to compensate those who substitute in extra classes or had extra students assigned to their classrooms this year.

In some cases where teachers have been out on COVID-19 quarantine and no subs have been available, single or small groups of students have been “deployed” into other teachers’ classrooms. Teachers will receive an extra hour of per diem pay for each sub request and student deployment.

Fresno Unified announced that change and others in a Thursday news release.

The extra pay is retroactive to the start of the school year in August.

District spokeswoman Nikki Henry did not immediately respond to a query from GV Wire about how much the extra payroll will cost.

Meetings Optional

In addition, the district announced that until Fresno County’s daily new case rate drops below 2 per 100,000 and the positivity rate of new COVID-19 cases is lower than 2%, all professional learning and professional learning community meetings will be optional for teachers to attend.

And, until the daily new case rate drops under 5.9 per 100,000 and the positivity rate under 4.9% for three consecutive weeks, classrooms teachers have the option to leave campus once their instruction and professional duties are completed.

As of Thursday, the county’s seven-day average was 232.6 cases per 100,000, and the seven-day average positivity rate was 33.6%.

The district announced that “nuts and bolts” staff meetings at school sites would be limited to up to four for the remainder of the school year.

More Air Filters, Masks

FUSD also announced Thursday that the district is working to put a HEPA air filter purifier in each classroom, and making KN95 masks available to staff as supplies allow.

Henry did not respond immediately to a query about how many classrooms are lacking air purifiers now.

On Friday afternoon, Henry provided more details: “In addition to the existing air purifier units currently in use in classrooms (RestorAir), the district is purchasing Aerus Pure & Clean air purification devices to provide a higher level of indoor air quality using HEPA filtration. The Pure & Clean units are expected to be available for distribution in 2-3 weeks. Last summer, the RestorAir advanced oxidation technology was identified as meeting the need and was the technology many districts deployed at the time.

“At 17 schools, chiller water buffer tanks were installed to increase HVAC systems’ water capacity, allowing fans to operate at higher speeds to increase air exchange and filtration. Schools were selected based on existing HVAC system design.

“At 14 schools, work has been completed to increase the level of air filtration to MERV-13 (minimum efficiency reporting value). Schools were not originally designed to accommodate MERV-13 filtration, and due to HVAC motor and ducting capabilities only certain systems can accommodate MERV-13. Materials and equipment for this work were delayed and in the interim, systems were set to run continuously and at greater fan speeds with maximum outside air to allow for as many air exchanges as possible.

“District-wide, contractors are evaluating all HVAC systems to develop scopes of work and cost estimates for short- and long-range projects to upgrade all schools to MERV-13 filtration. This year, the Board allocated $12 million for the first phase of projects, approximately 16 schools identified as the most in need of upgrades and least complicated, which allows for faster implementation. These projects require long lead time for design, bidding and Board award, and material and equipment delivery. The first projects will be recommended for Board award on February 16, and the next approximately 60 days later. The plan is to bid one project (two sites) per month over the next year to pace the work in recognition of design and material/equipment delivery capabilities given current market conditions.”

The district’s news release included comments from Superintendent Bob Nelson, who said that in “times of adversity” it’s crucial for the district and teachers to rally together to support students and their families.

FTA President Manuel Bonilla also commented: “We’re honored by the dedication of our educators, nurses, and trades professionals as they navigate the challenges of this pandemic and advocate for what’s best for students. We’re glad to have an agreement that will help balance safety and academic needs.”

Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email