DC teachers’ union votes against authorizing strike

The Washington Teachers’ Union has voted against authorizing a strike, but in a letter to D.C. officials, members said they want a way to address emergency issues in a timely manner.

In a letter to schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee and Mayor Muriel Bowser, the union said the decision demonstrates that its members want to work with District leaders on urgent action to “safely reopen schools and want to exhaust all other remedies before authorizing a strike.”

Earlier this month, D.C. had asked for a temporary order to prevent the union from engaging in a strike that would have stopped the reopening of some schools for in-person learning.

The Washington Post reported that D.C. has withdrawn its request for a temporary restraining order.

Among the requests the union is making is the opening of a “Situation Room” to identify and respond to emergency issues requiring responses within 24 hours. The union said it wants to work with D.C. Public Schools on the matter.

The members also want reassurance that the school system is following coronavirus guidelines from DC Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the provisions from the memorandum of agreement between the school system and the union.

“We must make sure schools are safe. What keeps me up at night is that the District is putting the health of our city’s educators and students at risk with in-school learning because of continuing exposures in schools, numerous reports of violations of agreed-upon safety protocols and tragically, the death of a beloved teacher,” union President Elizabeth Davis said in a statement.

Over the weekend, a cosmetology teacher at Ballou STAY died from health complications. The  school had started some in-person learning last year for cosmetology and barbering students.

Other requests the union detailed in the letter include clear metrics on the level of community spread that would result in a systemwide school closure; a requirement for a school setting to close immediately for at least 24 hours for deep cleaning in the event of an exposure; clear metrics on when and how a school or classroom should remain closed for more than 24 hours; and assurance that staff, families and community members are notified within 24 hours of any possible COVID-19 exposure.

Some 107 D.C. public school employees working in person have tested positive for the coronavirus, and 34 students participating in in-person learning have tested positive, according to D.C. Public Schools data Tuesday.

WTOP has reached out to D.C. Public Schools for comment.

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.

Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She is a graduate of American University and The George Washington University.

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