DC files motion against teachers union to prevent strikes as schools reopen

on Feb2
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Washington, D.C., has filed a motion for a restraining order against the Washington Teachers’ Union in an effort to prevent strikes as the District plans to reopen schools.

The restraining order would prevent D.C. educators from discussing potential strikes as they return to in-person learning, according to Fox 5.

Elizabeth Davis, president of the Washington Teachers’ Union, said during a Tuesday press conference that “because no strike is ongoing or imminent, any action by the court is unnecessary and premature, adding that “an injunction would…place members in fear even if they have legitimate reasons to take leave.”

“Teachers want nothing more than to get back to school for in-person learning, and they want to do it in a way that is safe,” Davis said. “We know that in-school learning is best for our kids, but we also know that COVID-19 is extremely dangerous.”

D.C. District Attorney Karl Racine’s office did not immediately respond to an inquiry from Fox News.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and the union signed a memorandum on Dec. 17 to reopen schools after about eight months of closures, saying in a statement that “the best option for our young people is in-person learning,” which has been the city’s focus since the summer.

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Davis said the union was happy to arrive at the memo, but the city has not held up its end of the deal to conduct schoolwide walkthroughs in all  D.C. public schools that are reopening for in-person learning. She added that D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee denied December requests for second walkthroughs after initial walkthroughs that led to the discovery of issues with H-VAC systems.

She went on to say that just last week, two schools were deemed not ready to reopen, and teachers fear that many more schools may be violating COVID-19 rules to prevent the virus from spreading like social distancing. 

D.C. Public Schools were supposed to officially reopen on Monday, but a winter storm kept them closed and delayed for two hours on Tuesday.

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“DCPS fulfilled its health and safety commitment to students and staff, and these measures were reaffirmed by an arbitrator’s decision made over the weekend,” Ferebee said in a Monday statement to Fox 5 D.C. “Our schools are safe, and we know the best place for students to learn is in the classroom. Our students are ready, our buildings are ready, our staff is ready. DCPS is opening our doors tomorrow.”

In this Jan. 11 file photo, pre-kindergarten teacher Sarah McCarthy works with a student at Dawes Elementary in Chicago. (Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times via AP, Pool File)

In this Jan. 11 file photo, pre-kindergarten teacher Sarah McCarthy works with a student at Dawes Elementary in Chicago. (Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times via AP, Pool File)

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, took aim at the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic as part of the reason schools remain closed across the country.

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“We have had a year of downplaying, of failing to tackle COVID, to give the guidance that was needed in schools to reopen schools safely, to have the resources … to reopen schools safely,” she said during the conference. “Since Jan. 20, we’ve had a new administration that wants to do this…and to do it safely. Before Jan. 20, we had this haphazard mess.”

She added that “people of goodwill don’t actually know what the science is” and argued that on top of having no solid plan for safely reopening schools, a “huge divestment in schools” has left many public institutions unprepared to reopen.”

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Parents across the U.S. have been lobbying for their children to return to in-person learning as some students face the possibility of completing an entire school year without entering a classroom in addition to the months they lost at the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Duke Health each released studies last week showing that in-person learning is generally safe if schools take proper safety precautions, but some teachers unions argue that schools will not be prepared to reopen fully until all school staff members are vaccinated. 

Fox News’ Evie Fordham contributed to this report.



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