Dispute over in-person learning escalates into legal action for Bellevue School District

The situation between the Bellevue School District and the teacher’s union escalating into a legal battle on Thursday after teachers voted to not come back to teach in person during a Tuesday meeting.

The school district filed a temporary restraining order in King County Superior Court asking for an injunction against the Bellevue Education Association.

The district says the union broke an agreement to expand in-person learning starting with 2nd graders on Thursday. The district says it was a last resort after repeated requests to mediate concerns went nowhere.

BEA says taking them to court is a misguided strategy that will do nothing to bridge the gap, instead only widening the conflict.

The union also said the move was disappointing and questioned the district for wasting money and energy in court.

In the end, a judge issued a swift decision on Thursday denying the district's request for an injunction.

While the two sides go back and forth, hundreds of families sent their 2nd graders back in person.

It’s been awhile since Chloe Carte’s backpack served its purpose and she also didn’t even have to use the computer Thursday morning to learn.

"It felt like new and a little bit weird because I haven’t been in a school building," Carte said.

Something so common upended by a pandemic that it took 5 months into the school semester for Carte to go inside a classroom as a second-grader.

 "All the kids were definitely wearing masks and the desks were 6 or 7 feet apart," Carte said.

She says the 7 kids in her class kept that distance from one another finding new ways to connect.

 "You can give them air high fives or air hugs or blow a kiss" Carte said.

 Despite all the rules, the 7year-old says it’s all worth it.

"You can actually see your friends and there is recess you don’t have to be bored sitting and watching," Carte said.

Although the decision to send her back in person was easy for her mom, Kate Carte is aware that behind the scenes things are tense for teachers and the Bellevue School District.

"I believe all the second-grade teachers were not there at Bennett today," Kate said.

The district is using substitute teachers amid a dispute with the union that now said educators in Bellevue won’t come back in person until they are vaccinated.

"There is still just a lot that’s unknown and so everyone is trying to do what they think is right, there are so many feelings and different opinions out there," Kate said.

There is only so much a 7-year-old can understand but Carte does know is that she can’t wait to go back through these doors again on Friday.

"Thank you for coming back to school and teaching us we are really glad you could make it," Carte said.

The district says some second-grade teachers decided to break from the union’s move coming back to teach in person on Thursday. Despite the growing dispute, the district plans on bringing back 1st graders on Monday and kindergarteners on Feb 1st