Every day this week, Seattle Public Schools has closed at least one school somewhere in the district because of a staffing shortage. So far, none have been in West Seattle. That’s changing for tomorrow (Friday, January 14th), when Chief Sealth International High School will be closed – no remote learning, just a full closure. Before the announcement – which attributes the closure to a “surge in staff sick-leave requests” – we received a letter that teachers say they sent the administration earlier in the day about what the teacher who forwarded it referred to as a planned “sickout”:
RE: COVID Conditions Collective Action
At a membership meeting on Wednesday, January 12, 2022, educators met to discuss safety concerns regarding the spread of COVID-19/Omicron in our school and community.
As a result of the meeting, members agreed the following conditions are necessary to maintain a safe, in-person learning environment:
1. N95 or KN95 masks required and made available for all staff and students
2. Mandatory weekly, on-site testing for staff and students
3. Resolve staffing shortages so staff are not asked to cover unfilled positions during their planning periods
4. District-wide mental health resources, or the funding thereof, will be made available for students, staff, and the community
If the resources are not available for these conditions to be met, we propose a shift to remote learning until those conditions can be established or until the current surge is resolved.
Chief Sealth teachers say the plan received 75 percent approval at their meeting. We had asked the district for comment on the demands, but haven’t received a reply as of this evening. We also checked with the Seattle Education Association, which says it hasn’t been organizing a district-wide action – these are school-by-school actions. SEA says it is still talking with the district about further COVID-19 safety measures; spokesperson Julie Popper tells WSB, “SEA is in ongoing discussions with SPS about safety in the buildings, both for COVID safety and for staffing safety.”
ADDED 11:40 PM: One of the Sealth teachers we’ve heard from elaborates, “We sympathize with the challenges that this presents families and students but this was the only way that we, as a staff, felt that the district would listen to our concerns regarding safety. We did not take this action lightly but felt we had little recourse.” So far as of late tonight, this is the only closure announced in our area; elsewhere in the district, outside West Seattle/South Park, SPS has announced one other closure (Cleveland HS) and four schools going all-remote (Broadview-Thomson K-8, Olympic Hills Elementary, Mercer International MS, Meany MS) as of Friday.