Highline Public Schools proposal to begin in-person instruction on March 11 was rejected by members of the Highline Education Association (HEA), the teachers’ union on Tuesday night, Mar. 2, 2021.
HEA members voted to amend the proposed March 11 transition date to April 19.
“While valiant work has been done to prepare our schools for the safest return possible and to comply with all state safety requirements and guidance, many of us remain concerned for the health of our students, their families, ourselves and our families and colleagues,” the HEA said in a statement. “The vote of the membership was driven by concern for the Highline community as a whole and a desire to add vaccinations to the list of measures necessary to increase both our safety and that of our students’ families.”
The district says it is “working hard to reach an agreement with our teachers so that we can start in-person instruction on March 11.”
“I share the frustration and disappointment of our families and students who are counting on returning to in-person learning,” Superintendent Susan Enfield said. “I am deeply sorry you continue to be on an emotional rollercoaster that I wish I had the power to prevent.”
This timeline hiccup for in-person learning was likely related to Gov. Jay Inslee’s Tuesday announcement that teachers and childcare workers be prioritized for getting COVID-19 vaccinations.
That means, effective immediately, teachers can seek appointments to get vaccinated.
“We will also be talking with the district today about their plans for HSD vaccination clinics so that we can prioritize our educators currently working in person and those slated to return soon.”
“Therefore, we are adding educators and licensed childcare workers to Washington’s Phase 1B-1 immediately,” Inslee said. “The Washington State Department of Health will have more specific information soon on how those workers can access vaccines. Phase Finder may take time to reflect these changes, but educators and licensed childcare workers can schedule with providers right away.”
The HEA posted this message on Wednesday, that is signed/endorsed by around 50 or so on a Google Docs page:
“We, the undersigned Highline Public School families and community members, stand with our teachers and school staff.
“We believe they are entitled to a work environment in which they feel safe and adequately supported in educating our children during this pandemic.
“We believe no one is better qualified than teachers to assess the feasibility and efficacy of safety protocols.
“We believe teachers have the best interests of our children foremost in their minds.”
“Teachers and school staff know best how policies actually pan out in the classroom,” one HEA supporter said. “I trust them more than … district admin.”
“Our Highline students deserve to be back in school like other students across our region, state and nation. I promise you that we will do everything in our power to resolve this situation so that we can welcome students back to schools. As always, we will keep you informed of our progress,” Enfield added.
Here’s Enfield’s full announcement:
Dear Highline Families,
This is an incredibly painful message for me to share. The proposal to begin in-person instruction on March 11 was not ratified by members of HEA, our teachers’ union, last night. We are working hard to reach an agreement with our teachers so that we can start in-person instruction on March 11.
I share the frustration and disappointment of our families and students who are counting on returning to in-person learning. I am deeply sorry you continue to be on an emotional rollercoaster that I wish I had the power to prevent.
While I understand the concerns our teachers and staff have about returning to buildings and the desire to wait for vaccinations, I also know how much we have invested in developing strong safety plans and protocols that have been effective in our schools since we welcomed students in our ILC program back in November. While we cannot promise a zero-risk environment, there are also real risks to our children from being away from school for so long. With data and public health guidance falling heavily on the side of reopening schools, we must prioritize the needs of our students and families.
Our Highline students deserve to be back in school like other students across our region, state and nation. I promise you that we will do everything in our power to resolve this situation so that we can welcome students back to schools. As always, we will keep you informed of our progress.
Again, I wish the outcome of last night’s vote had been different. Please know how sorry I am for the hurt and disappointment many of you are feeling right now.
What gives me hope, though, is the strength of our community. We have come together and overcome so much this past year, rest assured that we will soon see our school buildings open to students, staff and families.
Stay safe, strong and healthy.
Susan Enfield, Ed.D. | Superintendent | Highline Public Schools