Teachers union files grievance with ASD over school safety concerns

Anchorage Education Association members could refuse to carry out their assignments because their working conditions are unsafe
The Anchorage School District is staying with its plan to return students to in person learning...
The Anchorage School District is staying with its plan to return students to in person learning starting on January 19th(Scott Gross)
Published: Jan. 21, 2021 at 3:18 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - As students and staff across the Anchorage School District went back to school for the first time in over 10 months, many educators still have concerns with safety protocols in some schools that are not in alignment with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. On Jan. 14, the Anchorage Education Association filed a grievance with the school district to address the issues.

“Some administrators are really supportive and maybe more empathetic to concerns of their staff,” AEA President Corey Aist said. “Or, have experienced COVID-19 themselves within just their experiences and other administrators are not as empathic or as workable as we’d like.”

AEA outlined five concerns they would like the school district to address. The first deals with students practicing social distancing and remaining six feet apart.

“Some of our primary concerns right now, ASD has a three to six-foot physical distancing policy,” Aist said. “We’re going to stick with the six-foot distance policy set by CDC guidelines. It does say in the CDC guidelines that there can be some flexibility. Most of that flexibility is in passing, not for long durations of time.”

AEA has concerns with student lunchtime and states that the 30 minute lunch period students have at their own desks with masks off is unsanitary and could contribute to spreading the virus.

The grievance also is concerned with ASD is not allowing educators to continue online teaching or otherwise avoid unsafe in-person teaching.

“The grievance is a process to be solution orientated,” Aist said. “And so, we’re going to go forward with that in mind, we’re not trying to be a roadblock to face-to-face learning, the association supports it, for those who want to be there. We want to make sure that mitigation strategies are being followed in every facility and in every classroom.”

AEA says some of the changes in working conditions were not bargained with. The Anchorage School District acknowledged the concerns.

“ASD has received the recent grievance filed by the Anchorage Education Association and will address the union’s concerns in accordance with the procedures and timeline outlined in the current AEA contract,” ASD Director of Communications Alan Brown said in a statement. “As the grievance is an internal, administrative matter between union members and the District, it would not be appropriate to discuss any details.”

Brown also acknowledged ASD will work with AEA and address the concerns in the grievance.

“AEA leadership has been fully involved in the District’s planning efforts to bring students back in school buildings since September 2020,” Brown said. “AEA has provided valuable input that has assisted schools develop their comprehensive safety and mitigation plans. ASD is committed to addressing the AEA’s concerns and continuing to work with them to provide the best possible learning experience for every student in the District.”

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