We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
The Washington Teachers’ Union voted against authorizing a strike on Tuesday, prompting DC Public Schools to withdraw its restraining order against the union. DCPS filed a restraining order the day before some teachers returned to school buildings for in-person instruction. School officials were trying to get the union to stop deliberating on a strike. It is illegal for government employees to strike under D.C. law.
According to WTU President Elizabeth Davis, the vote was close: 38.87 percent of 2,058 members voted yes, while 44.07 percent voted no and 17.06 percent abstained. Not all eligible members voted.
“I’m not totally surprised with the outcome of the vote. I did expect it to go the other way, however. I thought the majority of teachers would vote for the collective action,” says Davis. “Either way, we’re going to address the problem even more so, because I don’t want the chancellor to get the sense that because the majority voted to continue that he can sort of relax on the standard. No.”
Many teachers have opposed reopening schools given the level of community spread in the District and officials’ handling of positive cases so far. Not all in-person seats at schools are filled, suggesting that many families do not feel safe returning either. The teachers’ union filed a complaint against DCPS on Tuesday, after a cosmetology teacher named Helen Marie White died from complications related to COVID-19, as first reported by DCist. The complaint alleges that DCPS violated health and safety protocols by not maintaining a safe environment at Ballou STAY, a Southeast high school where White worked, and failing to communicate to staff and students in a timely manner. A DCPS spokesperson told DCist that White was exposed to someone outside the school, and that DCPS notified the Ballou STAY community of a positive case on campus the day after they learned White tested positive.
In a letter to Mayor Muriel Bowser and Chancellor Dr. Lewis Ferebee on Tuesday, the teachers’ union expressed concerns about health and safety protocols across all schools that reopened. Davis and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten signed the letter. Since reopening buildings for in-person instruction on Feb. 2, five schools have notified families that classrooms were returning to 100 percent virtual learning due to possible COVID-19 exposures. All those schools had “CARE classroom programming,” meaning those buildings reopened earlier than Feb. 2 for families who opted for supervised virtual learning.
“We are educators and we believe that our schools can be safely reopened with the proper protections in place. Unfortunately, the number of cases in our schools over the past few weeks gives us great concern that the District is putting the health of our city’s educators and students at risk,” the letter says.
A majority of cases where classrooms returned to remote learning to quarantine come from asymptomatic testing, says a DCPS spokesperson. In the school system’s view, that asymptomatic testing picked up a positive case so students and staff then had to quarantine for 14 days is the protocol at work.
The school system has also invested more than $31 million dollars in coronavirus safety measures, so that staff and students could return to buildings. “Schools are safe,” said Ferebee before the Feb. 2 reopening, citing a report from epidemiologists affiliated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that says education settings do not see the kind of rapid spread that congregate living facilities or high-density worksites see.
In the letter, the teachers’ union says it’s hearing reports that allege DCPS is violating protocols the school system agreed to follow since reopening buildings to staff and students. So now, the union is requesting a number of actions, including the creation of a “situation room.” The idea is that a group of people—members from the teachers’ and principals’ union, along with school officials—would exclusively focus on making sure protocols are adhered to once a school reports a positive case. Davis says the current communication breakdowns leave some teachers in the dark. The union also reiterated its demand for coronavirus metrics that would close all school facilities. Right now, the District government publishes metrics on its coronavirus website, but those metrics do not trigger specific actions. DC Health makes recommendations to the mayor, who ultimately decides how to proceed.
— Amanda Michelle Gomez, (tips? email@example.com)
This post has been updated to include comment from a DCPS spokesperson.
- Daily case rate and hospitalizations related to COVID-19 remain in red or at Phase 0/1 levels. To see today’s coronavirus cases and more information, visit our coronavirus dashboard. [EOM]
- Coronavirus variants were detected in the D.C. region, but health officials aren’t thinking of imposing any new restrictions. [DCist]
- House committee considers legislation that would remedy the District’s coronavirus relief funding. ICYMI: Congress shortchanged us $750 million. [Twitter]
By Amanda Michelle Gomez (tips? firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie calls on Mayor Bowser to promote racial equity in her proposed budget. [Post]
- Utah Sen. Mike Lee is trying to block the D.C. law that would allow kids as young as 11 to get vaccinated without their parents’ consent. [Salt Lake Tribune]
- Parking ticket revenue down, but D.C. continues to rake in that speed camera money. [DCist]
By Mitch Ryals (tips? email@example.com)
Egyptian Favorite Fava Pot to Open Second D.C. Location This Spring
Fava Pot founder Dina Daniel has never let adversity disrupt her mission to expose the […]
- Indoor dining returns to Montgomery County with a 90-minute meal cap on Valentine’s Day. [Washingtonian]
- Critic Tim Carman eats his way through The Roost on Capitol Hill. [Post]
- How pop culture convinced the children of immigrants to be embarrassed about their school lunch. [Eater]
By Laura Hayes (tips? firstname.lastname@example.org)
City Lights: Chani Nicholas Thinks You Were Born for This
Looking up at the stars can help us look inside ourselves—at least according to famed […]
- Flory Jagoda, whose contributions to Sephardic and Ladino-language music earned her an NEA award in 2002, died last month at 97. [Post]
- Long Live GoGo: The Movement, a new photo book, captures the energy and spark of go-go activism in images. [DCist]
By Emma Sarappo (tips? email@example.com)
- Frances Tiafoe showed plenty of fight in his second round Australian Open match against world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, losing in four sets. [Guardian]
- Terez Paylor, a national NFL writer for Yahoo and a Howard University alum, died unexpectedly on Tuesday. He was 37. [ESPN]
- D.C. native Byron Leftwich helped the Tampa Bay Buccaneers win Super Bowl LV as the team’s offensive coordinator. His high school coach at H.D. Woodson is “not at all surprised” by his success. [NBC Sports Washington]
By Kelyn Soong (tips? firstname.lastname@example.org)