By Jared D. Childress | Special to the OBSERVER

Sacramento schools reopened Monday, April 4th marking the end of the historic strike of teachers and staff which forced Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) to close approximately 80 campuses on March 23, leaving 43,000 students out of school  for eight school days.

The strike was officially suspended by labor unions on Sunday, April 3rd after SCUSD agreed to increase pay and improve health coverage packages for both the Sacramento City Teachers Association (SCTA) and classified employees union SEIU Local 1021. The competitive pay and healthcare packages aim to address the COVID-19 related staffing shortage which  the labor unions cited as their top grievance.

After a weekend of negotiations, SCUSD issued a statement on the night of Sunday, April 3rd announcing schools would reopen the very next day.

“We are overjoyed that our students can return to school tomorrow,” wrote SCUSD Board of Education President Christina Pritchett. “Our district’s staffing shortage is ongoing, and we need more staff to fully meet our students’ needs. We are ready to work with our labor partners to advocate for investments in public education.”

The agreement, which SCUSD will vote to ratify in an upcoming board meeting, is meant to meet the needs of employees represented by SCTA and SEIU Local 1021.

Teachers represented by SCTA have been offered a 4% pay increase, two 3% one-time stipends, 100% health coverage through Kaiser and a 25% increase in the daily rate of substitutes who filled in for absent teachers during the 2021-22 school year. The agreement also offers increased professional development such as anti-racist training. 

Classified staff, such as janitorial workers and bus drivers, represented by SEIU Local 1021 have been offered a 4% raise, two $3,000 one-time stipends, and enhanced dental and vision benefits to premier coverage plans. To improve working conditions, SCUSD is offering district-provided safety shoes for nutrition services staff, an increase in the number of 8 hour bus routes, and a compensation study for all SEIU classifications,

In the Sunday, April 3rd district statement, Superintendent Jorge A. Aguilar said the agreement balances the needs of both employees and students; he also referenced the tragic mass-shooting in downtown Sacramento that occurred earlier that day as a reminder of the work schools do to prevent such tragedies. 

“Now, we must focus on healing,” wrote Aguilar. “Schools serve as safe havens and centers of emotional and mental health support for many students. This tragedy underscores the importance of the return of our students and staff on Monday, and I look forward to welcoming our students back.”

Support for this Sacramento OBSERVER article was provided to Word In Black (WIB) by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. WIB is a collaborative of 10 Black-owned media that includes print and digital partners.