MONROE, Wash. - First-graders piled back into classrooms Tuesday morning in the Monroe School District. The return to in-person instruction has been controversial even though district and local health officials insist kids will be safe if the guidelines are being followed.
As infection rates skyrocket in the North Sound, the state’s Department of Labor and Industries is looking into multiple complaints surrounding concerns over personal protective equipment, adequate training, and more. These complaints come from eight schools in the district and the agency says it is taking the allegations seriously.
Kindergarteners in the district have been in classrooms for at least a month. One father, Avery Lewis, said he feels good about it.
“They’re in a class of 10 people and as long as I feel my kid is not getting that exposure I’m fine with that,” he said.
The district insists it has a thorough safety plan to keep kids and staff safe. The county’s health officer believes younger kids attending school has not exacerbated the quickly rising number of new, local infections.
“We’re not going to have zero infection in schools,” said Dr. Chris Spitters. “The idea is to contain.”
The Monroe Education Association claims it was left in the dark when the district developed the safety plan. Teachers tell Q13 News some received a letter from the district threatening discipline or termination for those who did not report to campus on Tuesday.
Lewis said he felt for the staff.
“The teachers got put in the middle and they got stuck in a situation,” he said.
The union on Tuesday claimed the situation was getting worse, alleging the district told an employee who felt sick to keep working.
“One educator had symptoms, went for a Covid test and the district told them to continue working in the meantime rather than quarantine as they should have,” said MEA spokesperson Andrea Hehn.
A spokesperson for the district said it was not aware of that allegation, but would investigate should officials learn more details as it would be a violation of standard procedures.
The district says it plans to continue meeting with the MEA Tuesday and Wednesday. The union broadcast an on-line rally Tuesday evening asking parents to support teachers.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this article described L & I as investigating multiple allegations. While an agency spokesperson confirmed the state is reviewing the complaints, an official inquiry has yet to begin.