Portland Public Schools officials announced Thursday evening that there will be no school Friday. This continued a predictable nightly pattern when a lack of agreement between the district and the Portland Association of Teachers led to another canceled school day.
What was not expected by the union, however, was the district’s decision that students won’t return before Nov. 27 — the Monday after Thanksgiving.
Thursday marked the 10th day of canceled classes for Portland students as the district’s first-ever teachers strike labors on.
Union officials told reporters in a statement Thursday that the district made this decision unilaterally, without conferring with PAT’s bargaining team.
Students were already off next week for fall break. Teachers would have otherwise had academic conferences with families on Monday and Tuesday. The union said those days still count as instructional days. Under Oregon’s administrative rules, a school district can count up to 30 hours of parent-teacher conferences toward their instructional time requirements.
PAT leaders said it was “unfortunate” the district made this decision. They said, “Portland educators plan to continue bargaining and are hopeful that a fair settlement can be reached that would get students back to school and allow the first half of next week to be used as planning days or even possibly for student instruction.”
However, the district described Monday and Tuesday of next week as planned, non-instructional days because of the conferences. The district said those days were already expected to be “down days” for PPS’ transportation and nutrition services workers as well.
PPS communications director Will Howell said the days technically count toward instructional time, yes, but that doesn’t change the fact that PPS doesn’t have support staff working.
“We would LOVE to be able to convert those into instructional days, but we can’t,” he told OPB in an email.
PPS Chief of Schools Jon Franco wrote Thursday’s cancellation announcement in a letter to families. He stressed the importance of the conferences, saying that in-person visits or online conversations afford a “critical opportunity” for everyone to connect, discuss students’ educational progress and identify ways to support their future success.
Given the negotiations and strike this week, he said educators haven’t had enough time to prepare for the conferences, so PPS is announcing the cancellations now.
“[We] cannot open schools those two days even if we were to settle tonight, tomorrow, or over the weekend, which we very, very much hope to,” added Howell in an email to reporters after the announcement.
Franco also said the two sides will continue to bargain, adding that the “last few days have left us hopeful for a resolution.”
Once an agreement is reached, Franco said the district will be able to decide whether and how to hold conferences at a later date. They will also share a complete return-to-school plan, including when school days may be made up.