PORT ORCHARD — The South Kitsap School District is holding out hope its plan to return younger students to the classroom on Monday will still happen despite a vote by teachers Wednesday not to return until educators are able to be vaccinated.
The school district released a statement Friday affirming its desire to reach an agreement with the South Kitsap Education Association before in-class instruction is to begin for kindergarten-through-second grade students:
“We are actively working with SKEA [South Kitsap Education Association] union leaders to reach an agreement on a safe return to campus transition as soon as possible. Both sides are working in good faith to address concerns, find solutions and move forward. We remain hopeful for a start of kindergarten, first and second-grade students in SK Flex on January 11,” the district stated this morning.
Sixty-eight percent of SKEA members voted not to return to an in-person classroom setting until staff members have had the opportunity to be vaccinated. The group said its concern was that with COVID cases again rising and state health officials continuing to discourage large gatherings, it believes returning teachers and students to an in-classroom instruction environment is not appropriate.
The association represents 700 teachers and certified staff, including school nurses, counselors and psychologists.
The school district and its board of directors, and SKEA, issued a joint statement affirming its desire to reach a suitable solution to the stalemate:
“We know this continued uncertainty is difficult for all involved,” the joint statement read. “Please know that we will keep you informed as we finalize the return-to-campus timeline. It is the goal of all parties involved to find a way to return to campus in a way that is safe for students, staff and the community.”
The statement was signed by SKSD Superintendent Tim Winter, Board of Directors President Eric Gattenby and SKEA President John Richardson.
— Story by Kitsap Daily News correspondent Mike De Felice