The Seattle Education Association (SEA) union leaders voted Wednesday to continue teaching remotely. This is a sign of opposition to the school district’s move to recall 700 Seattle Public Schools (SPS) educators to their school buildings on Monday. The two sides have not yet reached an agreement on expanding face-to-face learning.
On Wednesday a group of around 250 educators Representatives of the 6,000 union members voted to continue teaching according to the district’s current teaching model, with few students and staff teaching face-to-face. The group also voted “suspicious” of Superintendent Denise Juneau. Juneau announced in December that she would be stepping down in late June.
It is unclear how many educators or students will be returning next week. Julie Popper, a spokeswoman for the Washington Education Association (WEA) nationwide teachers’ union, said, “Educators can choose, but we expect it will be minimal, if anything.” Early estimates from the district put the figure on the table 1,100 preschoolers and students with disabilities who would return, but an Aspoke spokesperson said that number could change.
When asked by email if there is an alternative plan if educators fail to show up, a district spokesperson Tim Robinson said, “It’s too early to answer this kind of what-if question. “
Amid escalating tensions between management and workers over a reopening plan, the district announced late last month that it would start looking after certain special needs students and preschoolers starting next year Thursday.
The district has in its most recent agreement with the union exercised a clause to mark certain educators as “essential” in order to bring them back in person before negotiations are over. These educators are expected to come to their schools next Monday.
The union has also filed three complaints of unfair labor practices against the district.
“It is the inaction of Superintendent Juneau 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, the union’s president, in a statement . “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.”
Union leaders say the district has not addressed all of the issues raised during negotiations, including the safety concerns of those already working in school buildings. In a statement, the district said its buildings are ready.
“From redesigned classrooms to mask and health check-in requirements, we’ve taken tough measures to protect students and staff,” the statement said. “We need to get these students back into personal school so they can get the essential psychosocial, social, emotional and academic support they desperately need.”