School is about to start in much of the Puget Sound region and teachers unions are still bargaining with district leaders over working conditions. But some have reached agreements, including the Tahoma School District, which serves the area around Maple Valley in Southeast King County and has about 8,600 students.
Like many districts in the state, Tahoma will start the year with remote learning based on the advice of public health officials.
David Aaby is president of the Tahoma Education Association, which represents roughly 540 educators. He said under the agreement, teachers are strongly encouraged to teach from their classrooms but will have the option to work from home if they do so in a professional way.
“You know, we’re not sitting on couches, we’re not outside on a lawn chair wearing a swimsuit or something like that,” he said. “Our teachers are going to be professional just like they are in the classroom.”
The agreement said some teachers will be required to work onsite for small group instruction, though teachers can in some cases request an alternate assignment. Kevin Patterson, a spokesperson for the district, said in-person instruction for students in special education will not start immediately and will depend on each child’s needs.
Additionally, the district has shifted the high school schedule later in part to accommodate teenagers’ sleep habits, Aaby said.
“What we’re calling our synchronous learning classes when they’re with their teacher on a Zoom call will start at 9 a.m., instead of — I think they were starting at 7:45 when they actually were in brick and mortar,” Aaby said.