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News / Clark County News

Evergreen, union reach deal on remote teaching

By Katie Gillespie, Columbian Education Reporter
Published: August 27, 2020, 5:57pm

Evergreen Public Schools and its teachers union reached a deal Thursday allowing teachers to continue working from home so long as there are no students in their classroom to teach.

Clark County’s largest school district will begin classes remotely Tuesday due to the continued spread of the novel coronavirus, with the vast majority of students tuning in for virtual lessons and other activities that can be done at home.

The district will, however, begin bringing in small groups of students throughout the month, focusing first on students “farthest from educational justice.” That could include students receiving special education services, low-income students, students of color and other groups disproportionately under-served by a virtual education.

Under the district’s agreement with the Evergreen Education Association, teachers can continue to work from home, but if students in their classroom need in-person services, the district must give those teachers 48 hours’ notice before requiring they come to the building.

The agreement is a compromise on a previous proposal to bring all teachers in beginning Sept. 21 whether they had students in their classrooms or not.

“This is nothing to do with anything more than trying to serve students in our schools, and serving students in our schools safely and appropriately per the guidance that we’ve been provided,” Superintendent Mike Merlino said at Tuesday’s school board meeting.

The union’s bargaining team had initially agreed to that plan, but it was rejected by the union’s executive board, fearing the proposal would bring teachers back into the classroom before it’s safe to do so on a large scale.

Evergreen Education Association President Bill Beville said the plan ensures student needs will be met while protecting teachers concerned about a district-imposed return date.

“We recognize as well there were kids left out,” Beville said of remote learning. “It just came down to a respect piece and a trust piece. We always knew the teachers would come and teach the kids if the kids needed them.”

All Clark County public school districts will start the school year remotely due to continued concerns about COVID-19. The state has advised counties consider their two-week transmission rate in deciding whether to open schools for in-person instruction. Counties with a transmission rate higher that 75 new cases per 100,000 residents in a two-week period high risk, and should open remotely. Counties with a transmission rate between 25 and 75 cases per 100,000 residents, meanwhile, are considered moderate risk, and can begin bringing younger students into the classroom part of the week, with older students continuing online education.

Clark County has straddled the line between moderate and high for several weeks now, with the latest data showing 71.6 new cases per 100,000 residents in a two-week period. Clark County Public Health director, Dr. Alan Melnick, has advised that if transmission rates can stay at moderate levels for three weeks after the Labor Day holiday, he could recommend reopening schools.

Columbian Education Reporter