DC Public Schools violated the law by not bargaining with the Washington Teacher's Union regarding safely reopening amid the pandemic, according to the Public Employees Relations Board.
The ruling from the PERB was announced Tuesday, and the board granted WTU's renewed request for preliminary relief.
PERB has ordered DCPS to bargain with WTU over health and safety matters as they relate to reopening within five days of the ruling. DCPS is also required to rescind the Intent Form sent to all teachers on June 30, and the Staffing Assignment Survey sent to teachers on September 29.
In response to the ruling, WTU President Elizabeth Davis said in a statement that:
The PERB ruling demonstrates that DCPS not only failed to bargain with us, but that they’ve erred by not engaging the community in their reopen plans. Any successful plan to reopen our schools to in-person learning must include the safety of the community and will require DCPS to build trust and engage the community to succeed. We again call on the City Council to allow public witnesses at their roundtable on DCPS’ plans to reopen our schools to in-person learning scheduled for Friday, October 23rd.
The WTU continues to negotiate in good faith on the conditions needed to reopen our schools. Our demands are for common sense protections for our communities including but not limited to access to testing, licensed nurses on-site at every school, verification that our HVAC systems work properly to circulate air and prevent the spread of the coronavirus. We’re also committed to ensuring that every student receives a high-quality education with a certified teacher.
The WTU is deeply alarmed by recent reports that DCPS will be reassigning teachers across schools and across grades to accommodate their reopening plans. This practice will harm students and prevent each student from receiving the high-quality education and supports they deserve. The DCPS plan will reassign students to new teachers whom they don’t know or have relationships with at a time when stability is important. Under the DCPS plan some teachers will likely have substantially increased class sizes at a time when we all recognize that personal engagement with students is absolutely critical to our students’ learning and engagement.
Teachers understand and sympathize with those who want to return to our classrooms. Distance instruction cannot replace the experiences that our students get in a classroom. We understand the social and developmental concerns facing our students in this distance environment. However, we can only return to our classrooms when it’s safe. Our plans to reopen our schools to inperson learning must put the health and safety of our students first and minimize disruptions to student learning and to our school communities