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Bellevue schools plan to bring more students back to class despite concern from teachers

The Bellevue School District plans to bring hundreds of second graders back to class Thursday, but the teacher's union wants to wait until they can get vaccinated.

BELLEVUE, Wash — The Bellevue School District plans to push ahead with its plan to bring back hundreds of second grade students to the classroom on Thursday, despite teachers saying it simply isn't safe. 

Members of the Bellevue Education Association voted Tuesday night to put a pause on the expansion of in-person learning. 

The district is planning to bring about 770 second graders back to class on Thursday, Jan. 21, and they will be followed over the next two weeks by students in grades K-1.

The children will join nearly 800 students who have already been receiving in-person instruction since September. 

"We have not had any transmission of COVID in our schools since we have been doing this work," said Bellevue Superintendent Dr. Ivan Duran in an interview with KING 5 Wednesday. 

Duran said it's safe to bring students and teachers back in a hybrid learning model with safety protocols in place, such as contact tracing, hand sanitizer, social distancing and smaller class sizes. 

But educators said they will not feel safe in the classroom until they are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

"It does not seem unreasonable to ask that at the very least you hold off your plans until teachers have access to it [the vaccine]," said Allison Snow, the president of the Bellevue Education Association. 

"To expect educators to put their lives on the line to make education look exactly the way it used to in a time of incredible fear and concern about safety, is unreasonable," continued Snow. 

Duran reiterated that he believes they can bring back students and teachers safely, and the district does have a contingency plan in place to use substitute teachers if necessary. 

But for now the district and union are continuing to negotiate. 

The union said if the district refuses to announce a pause on the expansion, then all Bellevue educators not currently providing necessary in-person and mental health services will stay out of the classroom and continue providing instruction through independent asynchronous work through the end of the week. 

The union said if the district does not announce the pause by the end of the workday Friday, Jan. 22,  it will hold another meeting to discuss their next actions. 

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