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Seattle Public Schools delays in-person classes amid union negotiations

Seattle Public Schools is currently in negotiations with the Seattle Education Association to reach an agreement about working conditions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

SEATTLE — Seattle Public Schools (SPS) has pushed back the start date to resume in-person learning for some students because the district hasn't reached an agreement yet with teachers about COVID-19 safety conditions. 

Preschool, kindergarten, first grade and students enrolled in special education intensive pathways were supposed to resume in-person instruction on March 1, but that date is now delayed until March 8, SPS said in a statement Monday. 

SPS is continuing to negotiate with the Seattle Education Association (SEA), which represents the district's teachers, classified staff and instructional assistants.

RELATED: Seattle students 2nd grade and older may not return in-person until fall

In December of last year, SPS began implementing plans for a phased increase of in-person learning for students. According to the district, for several months its staff have been preparing buildings for the return of students and teachers. 

"Buildings are ready with personal protective equipment (PPE); health and safety protocols are in place; plans for student transportation and meals are in place," the district said in its statement. 

However, teachers are still raising concerns regarding the safety of in-person learning. 

"Educators currently in-person with students continue to raise concerns about the lack of necessary PPE and failure to follow health and safety protocols," said the SEA in a statement Monday. "The district’s inability to implement needed health and safety protocols is delaying return to in-person learning."

The SEA said its bargaining team is working "tirelessly" to reach an agreement with SPS, "but we're unwilling to cut corners on safety precautions in order to meet arbitrary deadlines." 

The SPS Board of Directors will hold a special board work session on Thursday, Feb. 25 at 4 p.m. to discuss next steps for the plan.

RELATED: Washington COVID-19 relief funds to skip schools with no plans for in-person classes