SPOKANE, Wash. — The Washington Education Association Board of Directors recommended against having in-person classes in the fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday.
The WEA is the public school teachers' union. The WEA Board of Directors cited risks to the community and high transmission rates as reason not to have in-person classes.
In an email, WEA Board of Directors said they cannot “responsibly support a return to school buildings for in-person learning this fall.” The board called on Governor Jay Inslee to make sure schools only open remotely for the next school year.
“As the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to grow across Washington, we are sadly faced with a choice between two bad options -- either return to schools and put our educators, students, and community at risk or return to a distance learning and virtual instruction model,” the email read in part.
The email says there are more than 120,000 educators statewide and nearly one out of five are over the age 60, putting them at a higher risk if they were to contract coronavirus.
“If we proceed with opening schools for in-person learning while the number of cases continues to grow, some students, educators, and family members will contract the virus,” the email says. ”Some will recover. Some will have long-lasting health complications. And some will die. These are the facts and they cannot be denied.”
The email goes on to cite Washington’s high coronavirus rates. The board said the rate is far higher than when schools closed in March. It is also not guaranteed that the necessary personal protective equipment will be available to students and teachers, the email says.
The board also called for schools to prepare for quality distance learning.
“We believe that the time between now and the beginning of the school year must be spent preparing educators to teach remotely, not on hybrid models or planning for in-person teaching,” the email says. ”Making this decision now will give school districts and educators time to prepare and focus on a singular model of instruction and to better prepare for the challenges that a distance learning model will bring.”
The board also mentioned the importance of providing assistance to students of color, students in rural areas, students experiencing homelessness and students with independent education plans.
“It is imperative that a focus be placed on students furthest from educational justice and on building an anti-racist educational system,” the email reads. “For our schools to be able to continue to educate our students, districts must provide for additional counselors, family support, nurses, and mental health supports for both our distance and in-person learning.”
The board called on Congress to pass a comprehensive package to support school districts and local governments including federal aid for families to assist with childcare, child nutrition, technology, connectivity and higher education.