Monroe teachers hold virtual rally, contract negotiations ongoing

Some first-grade students and teachers in Monroe returned to the classroom on Tuesday for hybrid learning, and that same night there was a passionate showing of support for teachers over a virtually held rally.

It was hosted by the Monroe Education Association (MEA) that is currently in negotiations with the Monroe School District for a new contract that includes health and safety guidance for Covid-19.

The union and district have been at odds over Covid-19 safety measures and a reopening plan.

The virtual rally included remarks from the President and Vice President of the Washington Education Association (WEA), fellow teachers in neighboring districts and teachers in Monroe of all grade levels.

Alicia Mohler is a kindergarten teacher in Monroe who said she would try her best to hold back tears as she shared her thoughts.

“We do mask checks, desk checks, pencil checks and every other check in the book. You know, I fear somebody auditing me that I’m not doing my best job when really that’s not my job to be overseeing these safety protocols,” said Mohler who has been back in the classroom for a few weeks now.

Kathy Huck is a preschool educator in Monroe who said her passion is social-emotional development in children.

“I already have on a mask and a pair of glasses and I wear a gown every day when I teach, and when they’re escalated I need to go and put on gloves and a face shield and that is not comforting to those students,” said Huck.

The preschool educator also cited concerns about the isolating points of teaching during the pandemic that can have harmful effects in the long term for children.

“It’s breaking my heart. It’s going against everything I’m supposed to be teaching. It’s harder than I can even tell you,” said Huck.

Parents have been very supportive of teacher concerns. Many of them joined the virtual rally over Zoom.

“I want the superintendent to know, it’s okay to change your mind,” said Kim Cook.

Cook is a parent of a first-grader named Helen in Monroe. She is keeping Helen at home to continue remote learning, even though the Monroe School District brought first graders back to school for hybrid learning on Tuesday.

“We’re being asked to quarantine from our own families over the holidays,” said Cook. “So in my opinion, having our kids going back to school is unnecessary. It’s risky. It’s just unsafe.”

A spokesperson for the Monroe School District said all safety guidance is being followed to keep students and staff safe, under the support of the Snohomish Health District.

While new state restrictions were announced earlier in the week, all K-12 and higher education are exempt from the new rules and follow guidance measures already in place.