Seattle Schools and its teachers union still negotiating how to restart school next week
Seattle Public Schools and Seattle Education Association, its teachers union, are in final negotiations about the in-person elements of a school year scheduled to start — mostly remotely — at the beginning of September.
“We kind of knew health and safety and special ed expectations were going to be the hardest to reach agreement on. And it's all come down to that,” said union president Jennifer Matter.
The district and union are hashing out how to determine which special education students need to be served in-person, in order to meet their federally-mandated learning plans.
“We’re trying to work out the language on that piece, because we want to make sure that that’s just rare,” Matter said.
The union has also been pushing for clear health and safety protocols for staff who will be working in buildings, Matter said, including those who want to teach remotely from their classrooms. Some schools have outdated or non-existent heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, Matter said, leaving certain rooms with poor air circulation.
“So that's a major concern, having that kind of information available to our members so that they know which parts of the building are even safe to be using,” she said.
District spokesperson Tim Robinson declined to comment on the bargaining process until it is complete.
The two sides have reached agreement on a number of issues in the past week and a half, including pushing the start of the school year back by several days to September 4 in order to give teachers more training focused on remote teaching.
The district backed off its proposal for educators to come into buildings each day to teach remotely from their classrooms. That’s now optional.
The union set aside its proposal for concrete reopening stages to be determined by the continual reduction of coronavirus transmission rates in King County.
“We heard from the public that coming up with a criteria now for how you will open up the buildings wasn’t nimble enough,” Matter said. Instead, the union is now proposing that it be included in a district work group that will determine how and when to reopen school buildings to students.
After a late night of bargaining Monday, the two sides returned to the table Tuesday morning. Once they reach a tentative agreement, it must be voted on first by the union representative assembly, then by the school board.
Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect that the tentative agreement must be approved by the union representative assembly.