Washington Teachers’ Union passes no-confidence resolution over DC school reopening

Citing frustrations with D.C.’s plans to safely reopen schools, the Washington Teachers’ Union passed a resolution of no confidence in city and school leadership on Tuesday night.

In a news release, the union also said concerns with building safety and contract negotiations contributed to the resolution. It accuses school leaders of reopening schools without fully functioning heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems and not recognizing the need for a more widespread virtual option.

The union’s vote comes as Mayor Muriel Bowser, Chancellor Lewis Ferebee and city council members work to address safety issues in schools. For weeks, parents and educators have described issues with building maintenance, inadequate coronavirus testing and inconsistent communication, among other things.

The council addressed some of those concerns in recently passed legislation that narrowly expanded virtual learning, called for an increase in testing and broadened the definition of an excused absence. Additional legislation under consideration would call for all eligible students to be vaccinated by December.

Still, in the release, the union said its resolution serves to call out city leaders “for reopening schools that were not fully safe.”

“This is what happens when teachers raise legitimate concerns that affect students and teachers, but then time passes and nothing gets done,” said union President Jacqueline Pogue Lyons in a statement. “We need a relationship with city and school district leaders built on respect and mutual trust, and that means addressing problems together in a timely way.”

WTOP has contacted D.C. Public Schools and the mayor’s office for comment.

In addition to pandemic-related concerns, the group said that the city hasn’t provided adequate funding for mental health and social and emotional support for students and staff “dealing with trauma related to the pandemic and record-setting shootings in the city.”

D.C. isn’t working to address its teacher shortage and retention problem, Pogue Lyons said, and added that teachers “are exacerbated by protracted negotiations over a contract that expired in September 2019.”

Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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