Seattle Public Schools delays in-person start date after negotiations with teachers stall out

SEATTLE — Seattle Public Schools (SPS) announced Monday that it will be delaying its in-person start date for preschool, kindergarten, first grade, and Pathway students for at least one more week.

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The initial start date for the phased-in return was originally set for March 1, and will now be pushed back to March 8.

The district blames the delay on continued negotiations with the Seattle teachers’ union over working conditions in schools. The union said Monday that it is looking to reach an agreement with the district on returning to in-person classes “as quickly as we can.”

“But we’re unwilling to cut corners on safety precautions in order to meet arbitrary deadlines,” it clarified in a written release.

The union went on to state that the process can move forward quickly if the district agrees to “necessary COVID protections,” including increased availability of personal protective equipment and the implementation of stringent health and safety protocols.

The SPS Board of Directors plans to hold a special work session on Thursday to “discuss next steps for the plan,” and says it is “committed to continuing negotiations in good faith.”

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The district also requested the use of a third party Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) mediator to “help facilitate a timely response.”

“PERC is impartial and will help explore solutions that lead to a mutual solution,” the district said.

That said, the teachers’ union declined the use of PERC to help facilitate negotiations, claiming that “the issue not that we need mediation but that the district needs to work with us to continue moving forward.”

SPS says it will notify families as soon as possible if further delays become necessary.

This story was originally published on MyNorthwest.