Monroe teachers consider options as in-person instruction set to expand

On Thursday, a webinar was broadcast featuring the Snohomish Health District’s health officer and the Monroe School District’s superintendent aimed to ease school families and employees' concerns about next week’s return to in-class instruction for first graders.

It is called a cohort hybrid model, where some kids will split a couple days per week in a classroom and at home, all divided into two groups alternating through the week.

The district says state and local health guidelines have been the basis for the decision and kindergarteners have already been in classrooms for about a month.

The Monroe Education Association worries the district is moving too fast and claims officials have not worked with teachers during planning for Monday’s return.

“Teachers have done a phenomenal job this year,” said parent Ashley Strong.

Her second-grader's success learning from home during the pandemic has allowed their family to spend more time together, she said.

While first-graders go back to class next week, Strong’s daughter's class may soon follow and she is worried.

“There’s too much left unknown we shouldn’t really be going back yet,” she said.

Lisa Shelton’s first grader is ready to get back to normal. While mom says she thinks the district could wait, she understands some families cannot.

“Not everybody is going to be happy with every decision,” she said.

Some teachers worry it is the wrong decision and on Monday many protested the school board. The Monroe School District says it has been guided by state and county health officials.

Monroe Education Association president Robyn Hayashi says teachers were left out of planning for Monday’s return.

“It’s just not safe enough given the sharp increase in COVID cases,” said Hayashi.

Nearly 40 hours were spent in conversations between the district and MEA, said the district.

In a statement, the district told Q13 News a memorandum of agreement between school officials and the education association shows both parties agreed teachers may need to, ‘pivot at any time between remote, hybrid, and in-person learning,’ and that, 'relevant state and federal guidelines to inform theirs.'

But Hayashi says the district’s statement to Q13 News left out an important component of the memorandum, specifically a portion that promises school officials would ‘continue to work together to renegotiate these models, ‘continue to work together to renegotiate these models.’

“I would say now is the time our members will decide what our next steps will be,” said Hayashi.

When asked by Q13 News if that meant MEA might consider a strike, Hayashi repeated, “It is up to our membership to decide.”

While parents are split on the right decision, some are backing the teachers.

“I wouldn’t blame them if they chose not to go in,” said Strong, echoing the same thought should teachers also choose not to participate in Monday’s return to class.

Hayashi said MEA’s members are planning a meeting for Friday night to discuss the situation.