'It was a huge surprise:' Some Washington teachers react to state's new push to get kids back in school

With the state now urging teachers to get back into the classroom sooner than later, Washington educators have mixed reactions.

"It was a huge surprise we were not expecting that," teacher Tani Lindquist said.

Teachers along with the Washington Education Association say they were caught off guard with Governor Inslee’s announcement on Wednesday changing the health metrics.

Metrics, that up until now, that has been one of the strictest in the country for reopening schools.

WEA President Larry Delaney released a statement that reads in part:

"The trust and confidence that we can safely return to school is something that must be earned. It would have been easier to build that trust with educators with more communications in advance from the Governor about these pending changes."

Delaney says districts will have to meet L & I safety standards on day 1 before reopening schools.

A spokesperson for the Governor’s Office on Thursday said their staff and state health officials have been in communication with union members at WEA including Delaney. For several weeks now, they say the Governor has indicated intentions to change health metrics.

The state says the updated guidelines are based on the best available science.

New data is showing that transmission rates of COVID-19 are low among young kids if safety protocols are followed. The Governor’s Office says the key concern expressed by WEA members is over health and safety measures. But they say school districts will be required to follow L & I standards which are legally binding.

Despite the science presented by the state, some teachers say it’s more important on how they are feeling.

"I am hesitant to look at any one graph and this is the reason to go back to school," Renton teacher Julianna Dauble said.

Dauble who teaches 5th grade says her first reaction was fear when she heard the state’s push to reopen schools.

"I am afraid that people are either going to be forced to go back before they are ready," Dauble said.

Over in the Kent School District, Layla Jones has converted a spare bedroom into a kindergarten classroom.

"I want to be back in the classroom like I said I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I’ve worked harder and longer hours teaching virtually than I have when I was a brand new teacher," Jones said.

Even so Jones doesn’t feel safe going back now.

"Especially in Kent our numbers are so high it makes me nervous just the thought of being back," Jones said.

Lindquist who teaches in the Mercer Island School district says she’s undecided.

"I am right in the middle I kind of vacillate," Lindquist said.

Lindquist says all teachers miss being with their students, it’s everything else that is divisive.

"When you ask when should that be, that’s when you start seeing a difference of opinion, I would say it’s a smaller percentage, they are like right now, other people are like when we hit certain targets," Lindquist said.

The Mercer Island teacher says there is also the group of teachers who won’t feel comfortable until they are vaccinated.

Some school districts are prepping to bring some of their youngest kids back in January including Mercer Island and Bellevue school districts.

Lindquist says she is waiting to hear if she will be back inside her elementary school in January. She says her school district has been working diligently to come up with the safest plan.