MONROE — Some Monroe first-graders are to resume in-person learning Tuesday. Their usual teachers might not be there.
The Monroe School District and the Monroe Education Association have yet to reach agreement on safety protocols for bringing more students back to campuses amid a steep rise in COVID activity across Snohomish County.
If the educators don’t show, they could be fired, according to a letter to staff from Superintendent Justin Blasko.
“Monday’s threat to our teachers is simply an attempt at bullying and intimidation by district leaders who know those behaviors are prohibited in our public schools,” union President Robyn Hayashi said in a news release. “The district apparently has become more focused on proving that ‘the school board is the boss’ than caring about students, families or employees.”
On Monday, some parents in Monroe protested the reopening plan outside the district’s offices.
But the district is moving ahead with its plan, spokesperson Tamara Krache said.
“The Monroe School District has safety plans in place and reviewed them with staff today,” Krache said in an email.
The district will provide first-grade students with two days of in-person instruction and three days of remote learning each week. Under the hybrid schedule, students in each class were to be split into two groups that would attend on different days.
Administrators say they have a thorough safety plan and cite local and state public health experts who say it’s OK to bring some students back to class, despite record-breaking case counts.
Recent public health data show that despite cases popping up at schools which have re-opened, safety measures like masks, distancing, ventilation and hybrid schedules are preventing widespread transmission through classrooms or campuses.
“We will welcome first-grade students back tomorrow morning with the full support of the Snohomish County health district,” Krache said.
But union leaders say the district’s plan is flimsy and lacks collaboration with teachers.
“We haven’t seen a big outbreak, yet,” union spokesperson and third-grade teacher Andrea Hehn said. “That’s the fear of those who are working. We just don’t think it’s worth risking.”
The decision to not show up for class Tuesday isn’t a strike, the union said.
“The move is not a strike: teachers are following the signed, written contract from the district that says remote instruction will be used until a new, agreed-upon plan is in place,” the union said in a news release. “No revisions to that September directive from the district have been negotiated and approved.”
The district previously planned to bring first-graders for in-person learning on Monday. But with no deal in sight with the union, both sides agreed to delay the restart.
On Saturday, the school board voted to push the start back one day, to Tuesday.
Months ago, the district resumed in-person instruction for kindergarten and special education students.
Since then, the union says, it’s seen inconsistent safety procedures from school to school.