Washington Education Association Supports Health and Safety as First Priority for School Reopening
This is the statement released today, June 11, 2020 by Larry Delaney, President, Washington Education Association :
“The health and safety of our school students, staff, and community remain our highest priority as we look toward the start of the 2020-2021 school year. We share the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s interest to return to school as close to normal as is possible, to the extent that it can be done safely. However, we question if social distancing guidelines can truly be met in many schools across our state, given typical class sizes.
The OSPI recommendations, paired with those from the Departments of Health and Labor and Industries, provide broad parameters that could allow our schools to open in a way that protects health and safety while recognizing the need for a hybrid model as a very real option in many areas. School districts must engage early with educators through our local unions to incorporate best practices and ensure equitable learning within the OSPI parameters.
WEA members share OSPI’s commitment to ensuring a more equitable education for students who in our former models have been left behind. Both COVID and recent protests demand we do better; with distance learning likely to continue in some districts, we must create practical, achievable plans to effectively reach students of color, low-income populations, immigrants and English language learners, Special Education students, homeless students, foster youth or others for whom this system is not working. It is now critical that every school district superintendent work with educators and families to make sure equity concerns drive our actions.
WEA will work to ensure each of our districts are fully implementing the health and safety requirements. Now is not the time to reduce staff. Districts, the Legislature, and the federal government should add resources to address new needs for added staff to help with cleaning, with checking students’ temperatures, with helping teachers with social distancing, and with other safety tasks. School staff, with our vast classroom experience and expertise, need to drive decision-making around keeping our school communities safe.
Much work is still ahead. WEA will continue to fight for safety, full funding to in order to achieve these plans, and a continued role for educators as districts and local unions begin the difficult task of putting this guidance into practical terms for the benefit of students. We commend the work of the members of the OSPI workgroup and look forward to productive conversations with our districts.”