Renton teachers the latest to resist return to classroom

Kid Student School Desk

RENTON, Wash. (AP) — Public school teachers in Washington state continue to resist returning to the classroom during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the urging of Gov. Jay Inslee.

Educators in Renton voted not to return to in-person teaching. KIRO reports the Renton School District had planned for preschool, kindergarten and self-contained elementary special education teachers to return to school classrooms on Wednesday.

The teacher’s union says the district failed to address the safety concerns from school nurses, special education teachers and staff considered to be high-risk.

But the district said the union had already approved an agreement that said teachers would return on Wednesday. There are about 15,000 total students in the Renton district.

Earlier, teachers in Seattle – the state’s largest district with more than 50,000 students – had balked at plans to return some students to classes early in March.

The Seattle public teachers’ union filed unfair labor practice complaints against the city school district over actions it took to try to return some students to classrooms. After getting authorization from the Seattle School Board last week, the district designated some 700 educators as “essential” to speed up the process of in-person instruction for special education students.

The move last week used a clause in the contract that gives the superintendent the right to determine essential staff who need to be on-site in buildings.

The union argued the action forces educators back into the classroom before the two parties were able to agree on coronavirus safety protocols.

Inslee last month urged more schools to open up to in-person instruction, saying the online classroom experience wasn’t adequate for many.

The Democratic governor said moving toward more in-person instruction is in line with the scientific consensus and the latest guidance from federal officials.

Inslee said only about 20% of the state’s more than one million public school students were receiving some form of in-person instruction.

On Monday Inslee continued to urge a return to the classroom. His office said in a statement the governor “ not only believes it can be done safely, but that it essential for kids’ learning, as well as social and emotional development.”