WEA President Larry Delaney, Vice President Janie White and WEA staff host a virtual town hall on Feb. 3 to take member questions about COVID-19, expanded in-person learning and teaching, vaccines, safety protocols and more.
WEA demands safety first
March 2, 2021
Today is an exciting day. President Biden has required states to prioritize educators for vaccination now. Today's announcement -- along with the state Health Department's guidelines and Labor and Industries requirements -- gives us better hope that we can protect ourselves and our students from COVID as much as possible.
“We thank President Biden for taking active steps to ensure adequate vaccine production and distribution to speed up vaccine access for all American adults, and for prioritizing educators. This should bring a huge sense of relief for educators who have been working in-person for weeks or months," WEA President Larry Delaney says.
"For those locals still working with their districts to ensure the safest possible return to classrooms, this important layer of protection when offered in concert with CDC, the state Department of Health and Labor and Industries safety requirements, should help build trust and confidence for a return to in-person learning."
We have yet to see the information for how this will be operationalized in Washington state. The President said he will work through pharmacies, and OSPI has been organizing its "Get Ready" program to speed educator vaccinations. We will urge them to mobilize the plan as soon as possible and will be in contact as more information becomes clear.
We have fought long and hard to get vaccinations for educators, particularly those already working in person. We realize the risks many WEA members have taken working in-person to this point and our community is grateful for your work and your commitment to your students.
Re-opening schools safely
On Dec. 16, Gov. Jay Inslee released new, less stringent state COVID-19 standards and urged the return of young students for in-person instruction.
We know that in-person teaching and learning is best for both students and educators, and educators want nothing more than to get back into schools with our students, but it must be safe. Read the governor's proclamation.
WEA will continue to advocate with our locals to fully implement the mandated state Labor and Industries (L&I) workplace safety requirements – ensuring they are in place wherever in-person learning is occurring. These include things like adequate personal protective equipment, appropriate distancing, good ventilation, an active and trained safety committee in each building, effective plans for contact tracing, testing and clear communications regarding protocols for what happens when a case is detected in school.
We support our local unions’ efforts to work with districts to create safety plans and communicate them effectively to our members, students and families. Districts must commit to meeting these requirements and seek out the appropriate expertise, develop the capacity and commit resources to ensure the safety of the entire school community. Safely operating in-person schooling in a pandemic requires the trust and confidence of educators, students and families that being in a school is safe.
'Whether you are already working in a school or classroom with students or are facing the prospect of returning to an in-person setting, you and your students deserve the full protections that L&I mandate.'
— Larry Delaney, WEA President
Schools are part of our community and, as such, we must all take the steps necessary to contain the virus spread by wearing masks, socially distancing and limiting gatherings.
Key considerations in reopening
As of March 25, the state Department of Health (DOH) is now following the CDC guidelines.
- School districts must meet requirements outlined in the updated state Health Department's K-12 Schools 2020-21 Guidance and the state Labor and Industries (L&I) health and safety requirements before reopening.
Read survey results
The state Health Department has confirmed that educators working in school facilities are prioritized for vaccines. They clarified that the "high risk" language applies to the location, not the individuals. Thus, any K-12 educator working in a school facility is eligible for vaccines in either category B2, for those over 50, or B4, those under 50 years old. Vaccinations for those in B2 should begin in February and those in B4 could start as early as April. Read the Health Department's summary and review the vaccine roll-out plan.
The state Health Department released a new Decision Tree, now called "Tools to Prepare for Provision of In-Person Learning among K-12 Students at Public and Private Schools during the COVID-19 Pandemic." The toolkit clarifies that schools are expected to implement all of DOH's health and safety measures and the state Labor and Industries (L&I) requirements.Read More
Review COVID Safety Checklist
As an employee working onsite you must be trained on the best way to prevent transmission of COVID-19. This should happen before you start on the first day.
All staff should be trained on the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE), how to wear, remove and dispose of or clean your PPE, including information on accessing PPE for regular assignments and additional levels of PPE (low, moderate, high), depending on your work situation.
If you have not received this training, speak to your safety committee and/or your building rep.
These safety guidelines have been in place since this past summer to ensure your worksite is safe and healthy for students and educators.