AFT-WV Legal Update on COVID-Related Issues (10/27/20)

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After reviewing the Circuit Court decision issued last Friday by Judge Carrie Webster on the legality of the color-coded school map, it appears the Court basically affirmed AFT-WV’s legal opinion that the Governor has the constitutional authority to implement these measures during a state of emergency.
This ruling supports AFT-WV’s initial strategy to seek relief for our members at the local level.  After meeting with local presidents, surveying members and speaking at county boards of education, the grievance procedure has been initiated in several counties to address COVID-related health and safety concerns.

After the quick resolution of the first three grievances filed in Kanawha County, which was resolved to the members’ satisfaction by lowering class sizes to permit social distancing, AFT-WV will continue to seek relief for our members at the local level. By both statute and the state constitution, the county boards have the authority and ability to rectify many of the COVID-related concerns of their employees.

“Initially, I felt powerless about reentering the classroom amid the COVID crisis, and very nervous about how crowded our classes would be,” said Christy Kinningham, a Riverside High School teacher who was one of the Kanawha County grievants. “Once we filed the grievance, the administration worked with the union and adjusted the schedule to lower our class sizes. Most class sizes dropped from 24 students to around 15, which allows staff and students to social distance. I was also pleasantly surprised at how quickly AFT was able to get a resolution to our concerns.”

This week, AFT-WV filed grievances for 104 members in the following 13 Marion County Schools over “dual instruction” or teaching in-person and virtual learners simultaneously:
• Pleasant Valley Elementary
• East Park Elementary
• Monongah Elementary
• Barrackville Elementary
• Fairmont Senior High School
• Monongah Middle
• East Dale Elementary
• Blackshere Elementary
• Rivesville Elementay
• Watson Elementary
• Jayenne Elementary
• Fairview Middle
• West Fairmont Middle

“The power of activism on the local level cannot be underestimated. In a political environment where our best opportunity for change at the state level is after the general election, seeking relief for our members through county boards will likely be a faster and more effective means of addressing many of their COVID-related safety concerns.  The bottom line is AFT-WV will leave no stone unturned to advocate and protect our members,” explained AFT-WV President Fred Albert.