Seattle teachers vote 'no confidence' in superintendent, opt to stay out of classrooms

Seattle’s public teachers’ union has voted to not return to the classrooms, saying it has no confidence in the district to keep educators safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The move by the Seattle Education Association comes the same week that Gov. Jay Inslee – who has implored schools to reopen to students for in-person learning – said all teachers in the state could begin receiving COVID-19 vaccinations.

Related: Inslee announces start of new vaccine tier, allowing new groups to be eligible for vaccination

The Seattle School District is Washington’s largest, with about 50,000 students, and now the teachers and administration are at loggerheads. The district says it still plans to open up classrooms to about 1,100 students on March 11.

Members of the Seattle Education Association voted Wednesday night to stay in the on-line learning model and also cast a vote of "no confidence" in outgoing Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Denise Juneau.

Earlier the union had filed complaints with the state saying the district was sidestepping negotiations to force them to return to the classroom.

Related: State educators anxious for COVID-19 vaccine after Gov. Inslee fast-tracks eligibility

"Superintendent Juneau and Seattle Public Schools has shown a reckless and dangerous lack of transparency in readiness for students’ and staff’s health and well-being," Uti Hawkins, vice president of the Seattle Education Association, said in a statement.

After getting authorization from the Seattle School Board, the district designated some 700 educators as "essential" to speed up the process of in-person instruction for special education students.

Seattle Public Schools said in a statement that classroom learning was the best option for students, especially those receiving special education. The district said it has redesigned classrooms because of COVID-19 and instituted and mask and health check-in requirements to address safety concerns.

"We have seen other districts in our region return to in-person without incident. In our own school buildings, childcare providers have continued to operate since last spring, and we are already serving students in-person," the district said. "We look forward to welcoming back, on March 11, the 1,100 students whose families have requested in-person learning."

Inslee has said moving toward more in-person instruction is in line with the scientific consensus and the latest guidance from federal officials.

About 36 percent of the state’s roughly 1 million public school students was receiving some level of in-person instruction as of the first week of March, according to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.