Monroe School District pauses in-person learning for first grade students

The Monroe School District has paused in-person, cohorted, hybrid learning for first-grade students amid concerns from many parents and teachers.

The district announced the halt in instruction on Wednesday in response to many families voicing their concerns for students and teachers returning to classrooms.

"We have heard the concerns of our staff and families and are pausing in response to these concerns," an MSD spokesperson said in a statement. "We want to assure you that your MSD Board of Directors is committed to providing your students with the best education possible in a safe and healthy learning environment. We are committed to working with all of our labor groups to ensure confidence in our safety measures and practices during this ongoing pandemic."

The district stated it will continue discussing future action plans with the Monroe Education Association teachers union on the best course of action moving forward.

First-grade students will return to distance learning starting Thursday, Nov. 19th.

Prior to the announcement, first-grade students returned to classrooms on Tuesday, in a hybrid learning model, splitting their time in-person and online learning each week.

MEA previously voted to keep students in remote learning, as the school district agreed to return students back to the classroom this week. 

Robyn Hayashi, MEA President, expressed her excitement on the reversed decision during a virtual Health and Safety Town Hall with the Monroe teachers, students and parents.

"Pleased to announce to you that we members and community members, concerned parents, and staff alike have been heard loud and clear," said Hayashi. "Our district has come to the realization that they were moving too quickly on this roll in of additional school members and immediately pausing on first-grade in-person hybrid model...This is proof that we are stronger together."

"This is a huge step forward for all of us. Thank you, and it could not have happened without the voices of our parents and our teachers, and our community," said Romana Plesa, first grade teacher in Monroe.

The MEA is currently in bargaining with the Monroe School District, and will continue negotiations on Friday.

Parents outside of the district are also paying attention to developments, including Moya Skillman from Bellevue.

Skillman is a parent to two boys ages 12 and 15 years old. She told Q13 News there's a growing movement of families who support schools reopening.

"There’s growing frustration. The kids have been out of school since March. Education is the great equalizer and by keeping them closed we are keeping the Washington State kids at a disadvantage," said Skillman.

According to the Monroe School District's website, over 300 students are back in district buildings. There have been two positive Covid-19 cases at Frank Wagner Elementary and Fryelands Elementary. Nearly 40 kindergarteners are in quarantine, according to the Washington Education Association.