First grade students board the bus after a day of class at Green Mountain School in Woodland, Washington. (Photo by Nathan Howard / Getty Images)
The Seattle teachers’ union voted Wednesday night not to return to the classroom. It is said that there is no confidence in the district’s plan to protect educators from COVID-19.
The Seattle Teachers Union is filing complaints about unfair labor practices against the district
Seattle Education Association members voted to remain in the distance learning model. Members also passed a vote of no confidence in the outgoing superintendent of Seattle Public Schools, Denise Juneau.
“It is Superintendent Juneau’s inaction that caused the district negotiating team to drag their feet, and it is their responsibility to ensure that buildings do not comply with safety protocols,” said Jennifer Matter, president of the Seattle Education Association. “SPS needs to work with us, the frontline educators who see what’s going on in buildings every day and write down what readiness looks like, rather than pushing aside the expertise of our educators and putting students at risk.”
The district said it will open classrooms to about 1,000 students as planned on Monday March 8.
On Sunday, February 28, the union filed three unfair labor practices complaints against the school district for “shortening the bargaining agreement”.
The union said the school board voted last week to designate some special and preschool teachers as essential workers to get them back to work before both sides could agree on proper safety protocols.
“Superintendent Juneau and Seattle Public Schools have shown a ruthless and dangerous lack of transparency about the readiness for the health and well-being of students and staff,” said Uti Hawkins, vice president of the Seattle Education Association. “They have lost our confidence in their ability to protect us and meet the needs of our students.”
Like many school districts in Washington state, most Seattle students and teachers have been in remote learning environments for nearly a year.
Head of State: Consequences for not opening “getting higher and higher”
Both state superintendent Chris Reykdal and Governor Jay Inslee recently stated that it is safe for students and educators to return to face-to-face classes before staff have even received the COVID-19 vaccine. However, it is up to each district to determine its learning model.
On Tuesday, President Biden urged all states to give priority to teachers for the COVID-19 vaccine. Governor Jay Inslee announced almost immediately that educators, school staff and licensed childcare workers were being admitted to the current vaccine level in Washington.
Reykdal told KIRO Radio’s Gee and Ursula Show that this was good news.
“We asked to prioritize the educators. We’ve been about three weeks away in the current stages, which speeds things up. Educators can now go quickly. “
“The challenge is that we haven’t got more vaccines,” he added. “And this adds about 200,000 more people to the existing Eligible Individuals tier in our state, in addition to the very first tier, as you will recall, first responders, medical providers, and anyone at that tier who hasn’t been vaccinated still do. So it builds up a bit more backlog up to the J&J [vaccine] come in and some of these other providers are building more capacity. “
Washington received over 60,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week, but has been informed by the federal government that it won’t receive additional doses until April, according to the state Department of Health. Supplies for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine remain low and production across the country continues to grow.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.