Seattle Education Association says going back to school in person is dangerous given COVID-19 cases

UPDATE, 9:10 p.m .: Add information on the school principals’ proposal that incorporates outdoor education.

As time is running out into the fall school year, the Seattle Teachers Union has said it is not yet safe to return to school buildings, and three school board principals have come up with a model of distance education with outdoor education.

The Los Angeles and San Diego school districts have now announced their intention to start the school year online. Seattle Public Schools offered a hybrid model of in-person and distance education.

But the Seattle Education Association, the union representing about 6,000 teachers, counselors, librarians, office professionals and other school staff, said it would put students at risk, as coronavirus cases have increased.

“We really have to be careful that the transmission rate has been high since this week,” said Jennifer Matter, president of the Seattle Education Association. “The number of cases is much higher than it was in March when we closed the schools. “

In recent days, the daily number of new coronavirus cases in King County was about double what it was in mid-March.

Matter said the union is asking the district to work together at the bargaining table to improve distance education.

The abrupt shift to distance learning in the spring left many parents and caregivers exhausted and stressed out, trying to help their children manage multiple websites and stay on track academically. And some students in districts across the state did not have an Internet connection, which made it difficult to complete their homework.

“We know that in the spring we hastily put together a distance learning program that needs to be reconfigured,” said Matter. “We need to devote time to professional development, but also to train families so that they can understand what distance learning looks like and how they can support their children at home. “

In a statement, Seattle Public Schools said they continued to negotiate in good faith with the union over the impact of any changes to working conditions.

“The safety of our students, families and staff is our top priority,” the district said in a statement, adding that Seattle public schools will continue to follow recommendations from local and national public health departments, Office of the Superintendent of Public Education and the Office of the Governor.

OUTDOOR EDUCATION

Three Seattle school board principals – Liza Rankin, Chandra Hampson and Brandon Hersey – released a draft resolution with their own idea on how to reopen schools safely, and that involves moving a class out.

They suggest that educators mainly organize distance learning courses. But teachers also spent time meeting students in person outside on school grounds or in parks. Rankin said it would give students the opportunity to see each other and their teacher face to face, while reducing the risk of the coronavirus spreading, as more and more evidence shows that it spreads more easily across the board. inside.

“Everyone was talking about space between students, ventilation and all that and it was like, ‘Why are we limited to our buildings? “Rankin said.” All schools are attached to some kind of outdoor space. “

She said some families would still need child care during the distance learning period and schools could provide a space for community groups to do so. The proposal is not yet on the school board’s agenda, but Hampson said it was important to act quickly as the start of the school year nears and the decision ultimately rests with to the school board.

“It’s our way of trying to jumpstart the conversation in a much more positive direction,” Hampson said. “Everyone is on completely different pages right now and we’re just trying to bring everyone together.”

The district said in a statement that it was focused on “the goal of providing the best for our students and staff in the coming school year” and had been working for many years. month on a back-to-school plan for fall 2020 with a focus on health and safety. students and staff, with input from community members, educators and students.

“We will continue to work with our educators at every stage of our reopening plan,” the district said.


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