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Seattle teachers' union OKs agreement for classroom return

The union representing 7,000 Seattle Public Schools employees has ratified an agreement to bring elementary students back into the classroom for in-person instruction on April 5.

The Seattle Times reports the agreement makes official a return to school buildings for the district during the COVID-19 pandemic. Seattle is Washington’s largest public school district with more than 50,000 students.

The Seattle Education Association had 82 percent of members approve the deal this week.

“We listened to our community and brought concerns we heard from them to the bargaining table,” Jennifer Matter, president of the Seattle Education Association, said in a statement.  “We are grateful for our community members’ collaboration, and for our bargaining team’s dedication to making this happen.”

The parents of about 58 percent of SPS students indicated in a districtwide survey this week that they plan to return their children to school for hybrid instruction, a district spokesperson said. The district received responses from families of 14,272 of its 24,648 currently enrolled students.

Under the agreement, elementary school students and secondary students with disabilities would return to buildings on April 5 — Gov. Jay Inslee’s deadline for districts to offer in-person instruction for young students.

Some elementary students receiving special education services would return on March 29. Students would attend schools four days per week on half-day schedules for just under three hours, with some attending in the morning and others in the afternoon.

It also includes a commitment to keep as many students as possible with their current classroom educator and maintain 6-foot physical distancing. The agreement was negotiated before Inslee’s announcement Thursday that reduced the distancing requirement from 6 feet to 3 feet.

Seattle schools and the union's secondary bargaining team are still negotiating an instructional model for grades 6 to 12. 

KNKX staff contributed to this report.

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