Washington Schools & Coronavirus: What You Should Know

Your health and well-being, and that of your families, students and our communities remains our top priority. Gov. Jay Inslee closed our schools in order to slow the spread of COVID-19, and reduce the impacts of this pandemic to people, our health care system and economy.

That is why WEA and your local are fighting for three things:

  • Your health and safety, that of your families, students and community
  • Your ability to remain economically whole as a contributing member of our local and state economy
  • Flexibility — in work assignments, work locations, and adjusting to new conditions. School may be closed, but there is still work to be done. It might look different. What you do and where you do it may change.  For anyone required to work onsite, your district must follow all the recommended safeguards and protections for individuals. Districts cannot unilaterally require that employees work onsite without working with the local union to ensure that recommended safeguards and protections are in place.

If you have questions about what is happening in your district, please contact your local president or UniServ staff. Because all of our contracts are bargained locally, any changes to working conditions must be agreed upon at the local level. Your local leaders will be best positioned with the current information.

We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and provide updates as they become available. Check back frequently for the latest information.   

FAQs from WEA Members

Answers to your questions on the impacts COVID-19 will have on you, your profession and your school.

Larry Delaney_Message



 

Watch WEA President Larry Delaney's March 16 message to members.

Q: What happens to the Class of 2020 and high school graduation?

A: The State Board of Education has adopted emergency rules that  allow school districts to apply for greater flexibility in awarding a diploma to high school seniors impacted by closures. The rules give districts additional flexibility to waive certain state credit requirements for individual students. To get the waiver, districts will need to complete an online application and make a good faith effort to give students opportunities to complete credits for high school graduation. Districts that receive the waiver will have the authority to waive credits on an individual basis for seniors who were on track to graduate this school year. The rules would not excuse students from completing a High School and Beyond Plan or local graduation requirements.

WEA and our education partners hosted a webinar on April 21 to assist WEA members in navigating this year's graduation requirements and the emergency rules. Download a PDF of the webinar slides or listen to the recording of the Zoom meeting.

Q. Schools are supposed to provide educational services by Monday, March 30. How is this equitable?

A. We have to remember that even though we have been working hard to improve equitable access to public education for all students, we weren't there before the pandemic hit. We must continue to make good faith efforts to reach every student, including those with disabilities, students of color and English Language Learners, while we navigate through these school closures. We must also keep in mind that it is not up to individual educators to solve this -- districts should be working with our locals to provide systemic solutions to meet the needs of all students in the best way we can with these unprecedented circumstances. OSPI has said that continuous learning should be based on common sense, compassion and communication, not compliance.

More Questions & Answers

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Drive-in available hotspots

In an effort to bridge the digital divide, public and private partnerships have launched a project to provide free broadband access to all Washingtonians through community drive-in Wi-Fi hotspots.

So far, 140 of the new drive-in hotspots are in operation, in addition to 301 existing Washington state library hotspots. In all, some 600 public hotspots will soon be available to keep Washington communities connected, according to a May 7 announcement from the state Commerce Department.

For more information and a map of locations, visit www.driveinwifi.wa.gov. The map will be updated as more sites come online. Launching primarily as parking lot hotspots in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the free community Wi-Fi is accessible regardless of how users arrive at the locations.

Some sites also offer indoor public access during business hours. Everyone using the sites -- outside or inside  -- must practice social distancing and hygiene precautions, including staying in your vehicle or at least six feet from other users and wearing a mask if necessary.

Each hotspot will have its own security protocol. Some will be open and others will have Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) safe security installed.

WEA Individual Crisis Fund

Last week, the WEA Board approved the WEA Individual Crisis Fund. The purpose of this fund is to provide one-time, temporary financial relief for active WEA members (WEA-Retired and SWEA members are not eligible) who have personally experienced a loss of income due to the COVID-19 school closures. Crisis grants will be $575 each and are intended for those WEA members hardest hit from lost income. A benefit of being in a strong union like WEA is that we are united, and we support each other. We hope these funds are helpful and offer relief in these uncertain and difficult times. Here's how to apply

'Do no harm' with student grading

The state Superintendent of Public Instruction's Office released new directions on student learning and grading late April 21 for how school districts should go about grading students amid school closures from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a nutshell, the guidance directs districts to provide letter grades or an "incomplete" to students in grades 9-12. No student will receive a "pass," "fail" or "no credit" for any course and "Fs" cannot be given. Read more

WEA and our education partners hosted a May 12 webinar to provide an overview of the new grading requirements and discuss practical ways to implement the emergency rules at the classroom level. Download the slides from the presentation or watch the virtual webinar.

Clarification on school closure guidelines

On April 8, both Gov. Jay Inslee and OSPI issued clarification related to the extended school closure and continuous learning order, making clear that health and safety are the top priorities during this crisis. Read more.

Member Stories

What is happening in your areas of the state? Send us pictures and anecdotes, so we can share your hard work and dedication to Washington students and their families through these difficult times. Follow us on instagram, @wa_education, on twitter @washingtonea, and on Facebook @WashingtonEducation to see more stories like these.

Shaw

Maddie Halverson, CIS site coordinator at Shaw Middle School in Spokane, works with community partners to get additional food for families in need. It's a program called "Bite to Go." This program is in addition to the school district provided meals. Some days there are complete meals from the community partners, care packages, for complete family meals. Families are able to come to the designated schools to get food, but some are unable to get to the pick up locations. Many volunteers, alongside other school staff, like campus resource officer Dan Johnson, load up their cars and deliver food to families' homes. Dan says, "It's rewarding to see the happy faces of the people who receive the much needed food." He is thankful to be part of such a great program for our kids, families, and community. Spokane Schools also works with Durham transportation to coordinate drop off locations for other families in need.


La Vasha Murdoch (2)

North Central EA President and first grade teacher at Saddle Mountain Elementary School in Wahluke, La Vasha Murdoch, had this message to share on Facebook yesterday. It resonates with so many of us. "Want to know one of the hardest things about this 'distance learning?' When one of my kids tells me that she’s having nightmares and can’t sleep, I can’t listen to her share about it because she’s embarrassed in front of her family, and I can’t hug her and tell her that everything’s going to be okay. COVID-19 has taken more than our classrooms away. For some, it has taken their safety, security, and the one person they can count on not to judge them. 💔 Video calls and zoom meetings are not adequate for some things. Praying for my babies.🙏🏾"


Martha Patterson 4 (2)As what most would call a “seasoned” educator, I have absolutely loved the teacher directed collaboration opportunities the COVID 19 school closures have opened for me. Teaching and our work day being what it is, we do not get nearly enough opportunities to collaborate with our peers. Being a middle school Special Ed. and intervention teacher, working with multiple grade levels, collaboration is even more challenging.

In the past few weeks, I have learned how to Zoom, screen share, Google Classroom, and scan and create a Google Doc from my phone...and my teachers have been my Millennial and Gen X colleagues! My skills and knowledge have been stretched, expanded and extended … literally, it feels like I have gone through a long yoga session and it feels good! More importantly, I’ve collaborated and built relationships with folks who were once acquaintances but I now consider colleagues in my building and in my district.

I can honestly say I am a much more skilled educator than I was just a few weeks ago. I'm grateful for the opportunities for growth that the school closure has created for me.
Martha Patterson is a special education teacher and Central Kitsap EA member. She also serves as a NEA State Director on the WEA board.

Read more member stories here.

Continuous Learning for All

Educators have been asked to take on a monumental challenge in order to provide our students with some sense of stability in their education.

This transition has been — and will be — difficult, messy and imperfect. It will exacerbate the issues of education inequity that plague our nation’s educational system. And it will ask our members to navigate new, uncharted territory without adequate access to the tools or trainings required to fully develop an online curriculum.

OSPI’s new guidance on continuous learning raises a host of new questions. How will student progress be tracked during this time, and what accommodations will be made for students who don’t have the tools, the access, or the time to engage in distance learning? How will districts address the inherent issues of inequity that will pervade the proposed distance learning model? And how are educators supposed to rapidly shift highly refined and long-developed pedagogical practices online in a matter of days?

WEA will not only continue to work on seeking answers to these questions, but we will fight to ensure those answers honor and value our students and educators as they undertake this task together. While we will strive to reach collaborative agreements with districts on how to best serve our students, we have not and will not cede our right to demand to bargain over new issues that arise during this rapid transition to a new modality of instruction.

We must also keep in mind that it is not up to individual educators to solve this -- districts should be working with our locals to provide systemic solutions to meet the needs of all students in the best way we can with these unprecedented circumstances. OSPI has said that continuous learning should be based on common sense, compassion and communication.

The pressures the COVID pandemic has placed on our communities, the role our schools have played in responding to those pressures, and the fierce dedication every educator has shown for our students during this time has awoken the nation to a truth we have all known for decades: our public schools are more than just a place where students learn — they are essential infrastructure and our communities wouldn’t be the same without them.

WEA’s Commitment to Equity in Continuous Learning

WEA has provided significant input to OSPI, which released its update on continuous learning on April 6. Your Association has 11 members on the work group OSPI formed to collect educator input into the direction provided to districts about how to manage long-term, continuous off-site student learning.

OSPI also used our Explicit Equity document to guide its work. This document, guided by input from the WEA Human and Civil Rights Committee, states that if you aren't explicitly working to provide equitable opportunities for traditionally marginalized students, you are reverting to the implicit biases that create inequities to begin with. The equity document provides a list of questions people can use to provide more equitable educational opportunities.

While OSPI’s continuous learning update still leaves many of our students behind, we will do what we have always done: we will take the resources available to us and we will provide our students with the best learning experience we possibly can. We will do our best to make sure that our students feel loved and acknowledged in a time of national crisis. And we will make space for families who are already struggling to keep their heads above water.

Migrant and Bilingual continuous learning guidance from OSPI 

OSPI has prepared a new downloadable guide, "Supporting Multilingual/English Learners During School Closures." The 26-page guide discusses best practices, implementation strategies, continuous learning plans, and multiple resources on system readiness, family communication, student engagement, meaningful access, social-emotional supports, equity tools, online resources and more. Download ELL guidance for details. Download guidance on supporting migrant students during school closures.

Additonal Resources

Certification Issues

Update: Paraeducator Fundamental Course of Study

The Professional Educator Standards Board has released new guidance for the state’s Paraeducator Certificate program, given this year's school closures. All school districts now have until the end of next school year to provide all four days of training on the Fundamental Course of Study. 

Districts that chose to offer the complete FCS training this year will be reimbursed for the additional training days at a rate of $218 per completed day of training per paraeducator.

Please note that in-person training requirements are not being waived. Seven of the 28 hours of FCS training must be conducted in person, but the deadline is not until the end of the 2020-21 school year. The remaining 21 hours of FCS training can, if the district chooses, be completed online.

Learn more.

Teacher certificate expiration date extended for one year

The Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB) has extended the validity period on educator certificates expiring June 30, 2020 for one additional year. Read more.

Flexibility in educator prep programs

College and university teacher preparation programs are being granted flexibility in regards to how students can complete their coursework and program requirements. Read more.


 

Wellness & Self Care

Working from home can be stressful, especially in uncertain times like these. You are focused on still teaching students from a distance, keeping yourself and others close to you safe, and for some, this time can be isolating. Here are some ways to stay connected and healthy. Read more.

  • Have you had your daily serving of wellness? Read more.
  • Resources for parents and guardians. 
  • Join Workplace Wellness Academy, a free online course for Washington school employees to help increase their well-being at work and in life. Generation Wellness and SmartHealth have partnered to offer this online course free of charge to the first 600 Washington school employees participating in SEBB to sign up. Two free OSPI clock hours and 300 SmartHealth bonus points are available upon completion of course by April 30. This course will reopen May 1 for an additional 600 participants so join the waitlist.
  • Join Smart Health, an online tool that offers free videos and trainings and more. It's free and part of school employees' SEBB benefits. You can qualify for $125 wellness incentive by reaching a total of 2,000 points in SmartHealth by Nov. 30.
  • Mental health affects physical health. Remember to check your health insurance plan for health support and how to access the help you need. Review summary of behavioral health coverage under SEBB.

Resources and General Links for WEA Members and Families

WEA leadership and staff are working tirelessly to advocate for both educators and students during this time of uncertainty. That includes being in regular communication with the Governor’s office, the state Schools Superintendent’s Office and other state agencies to both receive new information from state leaders that we can share with you, and pushing those leaders for clearer guidance aimed at protecting students and educators.

Your Association is working to push districts to make every educator fully whole during the school closures. We will continue to work at the district-level to try and secure agreements for all public education employees to receive pay during the shutdown, and we will also continue to urge the Governor’s office to issue statewide guidance instructing districts to do so.

This page will continue to be updated as more information becomes available. Please send questions to WEA@washingtonea.org.

Free- and Reduced-Price Meals at School

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) promotes the health and well-being of children by providing nutritious meals to children. Public school districts, private schools, residential child care institutions and charter schools may participate in school meal programs. Many other low-cost and free services are tied to qualifying for this program such as low-cost internet, free educational resources and waiving of student fees. If your income level has recently changed due to an unexpected layoff, contact your child’s school district so that you can submit a new income verification survey.

In Seattle/King County, read about low-cost internet for families with children who receive free lunches through the National School Lunch Program.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) provides temporary cash for families in need. TANF benefits are based on your family size and income. A family of three, with no income, would receive a monthly TANF grant of $569. When a household member starts working, we only count half of the earnings against the grant. If a member of the household starts receiving unemployment or another type of unearned income, we would count the entire amount against the grant. To be eligible for TANF, your family must have resources of $6,000 or less. Click here for dditional information and applications

Basic Food

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), called Basic Food in Washington, helps people with low incomes make ends meet by providing monthly benefits to buy food. Additional information and applications can be found through the Dept. of Social and Health Services. 

Pandemic EBT Cards for Summer

The CARES Act created a new program that will allow students who previously qualified for the free- and reduced-price meals program, SNAP and TANF to obtain an electronic benefits card to purchase meals over the summer. Newly enrolled families into SNAP and TANF will also be eligible to receive this benefit. More information about this program can be found here.

Food Banks

Food banks are still operating, although hours will vary. Check with your local food bank to learn about hours and any requirements, such as an I.D. that may be needed when accessing food bank distributions.

Additional resources