For Immediate Release:
Washington DC Teachers Release Statement on Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) Ruling Against DCPS Reopen Plan
WASHINGTON — In response to complaints filed by the Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU), the Public Employees Relations Board (PERB) Hearing Examiner on Tuesday October 20 ruled that DC Public Schools (DCPS) violated the law by refusing to bargain with WTU regarding reopening planning and granted WTU’s renewed request for preliminary relief. The PERB found that there is reasonable cause to believe that DCPS has violated the law by not bargaining with WTU regarding reopening and ordered that DCPS bargain with WTU over health and safety matters as they relate to reopening within 5 days of the ruling. DCPS must also rescind the Intent Form that it sent to teachers on June 30, and the Staffing Assignment Survey it sent to teachers on September 29.
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October 15, 2020
Washington DC Teachers’ Release Statement on
Reports of an Agreement to Reopen Schools to In-Person Learning
Calls on Council of the District of Columbia to Open Upcoming Hearing to Public Witnesses
WASHINGTON — The Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU) President Elizabeth Davis released the attached statement regarding today following reports that the Union had agreed to a framework for reopening schools to in-person learning.
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Washington DC Teachers Union Releases Statement on Mayor Bowser’s Plan to Reopen Schools to In-person Learning
Reiterates Union calls for transparency and public engagement
WASHINGTON — Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU) President Elizabeth Davis the attached statement on the Mayor’s decision to reopen schools to in-person learning on November 9.
“While our teachers want to return to our classrooms and resume in-person learning, we can only do so when it is safe and when the Mayor and Chancellor have come to the table to work with us and other Union leaders to ensure the safety of our students, school –based staff, and communities.
“The Mayor and Chancellor Ferebee have failed to share the details of what COVID 19 safety measures have been instituted in each school. Their secrecy is a major part of our concern. In a survey of teachers the WTU conducted last week, less than 3% believed our schools will be safe to reopen for in-person learning on or before November 9. Fewer said that DCPS has shared detailed information on proposed schedules and staffing plans. Nothing announced today will change these numbers.
On our brief tour on Friday of schools that are currently open to students, I saw no evidence of progress being made to ready the buildings for in-person teaching and learning before our group was asked to leave the school. Signage was virtually non-existent and needed upgrades to restrooms and installation of hand sanitizing equipment were not complete. Teachers, rightly, feel as if they are playing Hunger Games with the Mayor and Chancellor. If our schools are truly ready or in-person learning, as the Mayor and Chancellor suggest, then why would they not want parents and school workers to see the evidence for themselves?
“In recent days, we’ve seen how quickly a public gathering can turn into a ‘super-spreader’ event. Research and news articles continue to document growing concerns around student exposure to this virus and its spread in school setting. We ask that the Mayor and Chancellor work with us to accomplish the following before they move forward with plans to reopen our schools to in-person learning:
- Agree to a safety checklist for school facilities. The WTU has adopted this checklist from national best practices to ensure our school buildings are equipped and safe for students, teachers, and school staff. We also want to ensure public reporting of any deficiencies and a public process for ensuring conditions are corrected. In partnership with Local School Advisory Teams (LSATs) and all Unions represented in our schools, tours shall be scheduled and approval of conditions for reopening must be agreed upon by all partners;
- Agree to a Memorandum of Agreement that covers school operations and develop specific staffing plans and guidance for teachers at each school, without compromising teacher privacy. While we appreciate the decision to extend the deadline for staff to respond to the DCPS staff survey, we believe the survey should be rescinded due to technical issues and concerns with provisions requiring teachers to share personal health information;
- Work in partnership with the Union to establish clear and specific protocols for cleaning and sharing information on COVID exposure in school communities. Multiple school –based staff have entered buildings since the school year began, yet school communities have not been notified; and
- Provide details on the purchase and distribution of PPE for school communities and clear, agreed upon, protocols for their uses in a school facility.
“The WTU will stay the course on ensuring that teachers, parents and other education stakeholders are provided the evidence that the schools are ready for safe return. Teachers, students, other school workers and our students are not disposable pawns to be used as a part of an experiment.”
Last Friday, President Davis joined Council of School Officers (CSO) President Richard Jackson, and Walakewon Blegay from the DC Nurses Association (DCNA) in visiting a school. During their visit to Cardozo Education Campus, school officials asked them to leave because the school was “unsafe.” The Union leaders, who represent the majority of school-based staff, were not allowed to enter the other schools, Noyes ES and Phelps ACE HS, they’d planned to visit. On their visit, the Union leaders saw limited evidence of an investment in signage and improvements to the physical school plan designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our school system.
The WTU has created a Checklist for Safely REOPENING Schools outlining the protections that need to be in-place before opening our buildings to students. We encourage school communities to REPORT UNSAFE CONDITIONs Here.
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Release Statement on City’s Planning to Reopen Schools for In-Person Instruction
WASHINGTON — The Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU) President Elizabeth Davis, Council of School Officers (CSO) President Richard Jackson, and DC Nurses Association (DCNA) Executive Director Edward J. Smith released the following statement on the city’s planning to reopen schools for in-person instruction.
“‘You can only move at the rate of trust.” These were the words of Chancellor Ferebee in the days leading up to his confirmation as DCPS Chancellor. During a global health pandemic, there is no greater truth. If our school leaders, teachers, nurses and students do not feel safe and heard during this trying time in our nation’s history, we cannot expect to have a successful return to in-person learning across the District of Columbia. Furthermore, the failure to follow the guidance of health professionals and ensure adequate protections for our school-based staff and students will result in the continued spread of COVID-19 in our community, likely with deadly consequences.
“We sympathize with the many teachers, nurses, school leaders, and, most importantly, families who long for a return to our school buildings; however, we have not seen significant progress in our buildings or detailed information from the Mayor’s office or DC Public Schools to believe that our schools can safely reopen for in-person learning without creating a substantial health risk for our community. Nor have we seen the detailed plans for the school openings announced today.
“The Washington Teachers’ Union, Council of School Officers and DCNA echo the concerns put forth by Councilmembers Robert White (At-Large), Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1), Mary Cheh (Ward 3), and Trayon White (Ward 8) to the Mayor last week: “a full transition to in-person education cannot happen until we take further steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our community.” The WTU, CSO and DCNA also echo the Councilmembers calls for clear standards and protocols to safeguard our students and staff when they enter our buildings and a full, transparent, analysis of building ventilation and safe and adequate nursing suites.
“With the Mayor’s announcement today of her plans to move forward with the reopening of select schools and plans to move forward with a full reopening in November, we call upon her administration and DC Public Schools officials to work with school leaders, teachers, nurses and the community to create a detailed plan for how they plan to safely reopen our schools, while ensuring that we are following national and local health department guidance.
“To move forward with plans to reopen our schools to in-person learning in the coming days or weeks without a detailed public plan and robust community engagement will set our schools and students up for failure. We once again call for the Council to step in to ensure that our community can be safe should the Mayor decide to move forward with her plans to reopen our schools to in-person learning.”
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You can download the statement here.
Good morning. I am Elizabeth Davis, President of the Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU). The WTU represents over 5,000 active and retired teachers. We are dedicated to social and educational justice for the students of the District of Columbia and to improving the quality of support, resources, compensation and working conditions for the public servants and proud teachers who educate our students. Many of our WTU members live and pay taxes in the District and have kids or family members that attend DC schools. I am a DC teacher and DC resident.
Teachers understand and sympathize with those who want to return to our classrooms. Virtual instruction cannot replace the experiences our students get in a classroom. We understand the social and developmental concerns facing our students in this virtual environment. However, we do believe that teachers are doing an exceptional job during this pandemic, reaching and engaging their students, despite many technical issues and concerns. In the words of one WTU teacher:
“Virtual learning is not ideal; however, I do feel as if it is improving each and every day as teachers and students and families settle into a new routine. I would prefer to continue on the virtual learning trajectory and continue to do our very best as opposed to renter our building for in person learning without preparations and without knowing the state of our building and whether or not precautions have been taken. There is absolutely no need to risk lives. We should stay the course and continue to improve until a vaccine is created and building are safe and secure.”
~~ A WTU Teacher
The WTU understands that learning in our classrooms, both brick and mortar and digital, is impacted by many factors some out of the direct control of teachers. But, we can – and will – advocate for our students to receive the supports they need. The educational environment isn't confined to the classroom but, instead, extends into the home and the community and around the world. Information isn't bound primarily in books; it's available everywhere in bits and bytes.