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Seattle Public Schools delays reopening plans as teachers union agreement stalls

caption: Garfield High School in Seattle on January 22, 2021.
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Garfield High School in Seattle on January 22, 2021.
KUOW Photo/Ann Dornfeld

Seattle Public Schools is delaying its plan to start bringing students back into buildings by one week. Originally planning for March 1, the district has pushed back reopening its doors to a few student groups to March 8.

In the meantime, the district and its teachers union still have yet to reach a reopening agreement.

In a statement, the Seattle Education Association said the district has not yet agreed to provide adequate Covid protections.

The union said its bargaining team "is working tirelessly to reach an agreement with SPS as quickly as we can, but we're unwilling to cut corners on safety precautions in order to meet arbitrary deadlines."

The union said that staff members who are currently working with students in person, such as the small number of students receiving special education services in schools, "continue to raise concerns about the lack of necessary [personal protective equipment] and failure to follow health and safety protocols."

The district, meanwhile, said that the union rebuffed its efforts to bring in a mediator from the state Public Employment Relations Commission.

"PERC is impartial and will help SPS and SEA explore solutions that lead to a mutual agreement," the district said in a statement.

Seattle Schools is one of the last districts in the region to finalize reopening plans.

Statewide, 82% of all districts have at least begun to reopen, according to data compiled by the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. Two-thirds of the state's districts offer some in-person learning at all grade levels.

Seattle Schools has said in the weeks after some special education classrooms reopen, it will bring back preschool, kindergarten, and first grade students.

Seattle Education Association has criticized the district for setting expectations of reopening on a particular date — with its original March 1 deadline — long before it had reach a memorandum of understanding with the union.

The Seattle School Board plans to hold a special work session focused on reopening on Feb. 25th at 4 p.m.

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