DC teachers’ union refuses to sign agreement reopening schools, cites lack of transparency

The Washington Teachers’ Union has refused to sign a tentative agreement with D.C. Public Schools to reopen classrooms for in-person instruction.

In a statement, the union said school officials haven’t been transparent about reopening plans.

” … Given the lack of clear public health guidelines and the lack of engagement with administrators and teachers around reopening plans, the WTU has determined it is not in the best interest of our students, teachers and all school-based employees to sign the MOA at this time,” union President Elizabeth Davis said in a release.

The union had tentatively agreed to the deal last week — it would have allowed teachers to opt out of in-person teaching through January.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said this is not the first time the union has backed away from a seemingly done deal.

“I think it’s unfortunate given that the president of the teachers’ union indicated her support for an agreement after many hours of negotiations with us,” Bowser said. “I can’t say I’m surprised — she’s backed away from other tentative agreements as well, and it should be apparent that the goal posts continue to move.”

Davis said she believes the city is using the union’s demands as an excuse to stall opening schools without taking the blame.

“They are going to hide behind the WTU as a roadblock, as opposed to saying ‘we have not prepared those schools for reopening — even the CARES classrooms,'” Davis said.

The union said they recognize that virtual learning puts lower-income students at a disadvantage, but that returning to school buildings would only be acceptable once proper and clear health safety guidelines are established by DCPS.

” … As DCPS moved forward with today’s opening of CARE Classrooms, our members were increasingly frustrated by a lack of transparency and engagement in the reopening of these classrooms,” Davis said.

D.C. Public Schools began reopening some classrooms Wednesday through its Canvas Academics and Real Engagement (CARE) program, but they’re being supervised by non-teacher employees.

Davis said the union could not sign the agreement in its current state without better protections for teachers and the ability for the schools’ communities to verify that all work that goes into readying buildings for the demands of social distancing and health safety guidelines is up to standard.

“What we have got is the 29 schools that have been sited to open, in some instances, the walkthroughs indicated the schools were not ready,” Davis said.

The Washington Teachers’ Union is asking the D.C. Council to pass legislation that would require DCPS to submit a clear and detailed plan for reopening.

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

WTOP’s Megan Cloherty contributed to this report.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to give the correct version of the CARE acronym.

Zeke Hartner

Zeke Hartner is a digital writer/editor who has been with WTOP since 2017. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University’s Political Science program and an avid news junkie.

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