WEA demands safety first

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.

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 changes in reopening

The Department of Health (DOH) guidelines changed in December. It is important to note that they are not requirements and not enforceable. 

  • Reopen for all students when the number of cases in a region are fewer than 50 cases per 100,000.
  • If cases are between 50 and 350 per 100,000 residents, the new standards encourage districts to open elementary and middle schools.
  • In regions with more than 350 cases per 100,000 residents, the new standards say elementary school students can go back to school in groups of 15 or fewer.
  • 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 the governor's proclamation.

  • Washington's COVID-19 vaccine phases

    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.

    Read survey results
  • The rules from state Labor & Industries

    The state Labor and Industries (L&I) health and safety requirements form the backbone of measures to create safer teaching and learning environments. 
    Read More
  • New DOH 'Decision Tree'

    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
  • Did you know?

    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.

    Review COVID Safety Checklist
  • WEA Town Hall on School Workplace Safety

    WEA President Larry Delaney, Vice President Janie White and WEA staff host a live town hall on Oct. 5 for a discussion on the expanded information and guidelines about school workplace safety from the state Department of Labor and Industries. The guidance was released on Sept. 30. WEA shared and answered questions about the guidance, including safety protocols and required personal protective equipment for educators, in order to keep our school communities safe and healthy.

    Also, WEA has compiled a workplace safety checklist and a worksite hazard log for locals to use.

    Watch WEA's Town Hall