AFT-WV’s initial strategy to seek relief for our members at the local level via the grievance procedure continues. After the Circuit Court basically affirmed our legal opinion that the Governor has the constitutional authority to implement safety measures via the color-coded school map during a state of emergency, we have sought to remedy various COVID-19 related concerns using this venue.
The quick resolution of the first three grievances filed in Kanawha County (all to the members’ satisfaction by lowering class sizes to permit social distancing) has led AFT-WV to continue to utilize the grievance procedure 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, and we are hopeful that many will follow the example that Kanawha County has set by addressing staff concerns to settle the grievances.
A few weeks ago, AFT-WV filed grievances for 104 members in 13 Marion County Schools over “dual instruction” or teaching in-person and virtual learners simultaneously. A hearing for that grievance is scheduled for next week. We will update you on the outcome of the hearing at that time.
A similar grievance over “dual instruction” was filed in Randolph County, and subsequently, the board has voted to adopt a plan at the semester where teachers will be teaching in-person learners or virtual learners, but not both at the same time. This is a tremendous victory for Randolph County educators.
Another grievance was filed in Kanawha County on health and safety grounds, after a student repeatedly refused to wear an approved mask. The student was not exempt from mask wearing due to age or health concerns; he/she just simply did not want to comply. The county board has given the parents an ultimatum regarding mandatory masks being absolutely required for in-person learning. If the parents choose not to comply with the school system’s mask requirement, the grievance will continue forward until the health and safety concerns of the members are addressed.
“While we wish we could flip a switch to take care of all the COVID concerns out in our schools, we know that it’s not that simple, given the politicization of the virus, the map and 55 county school systems which are constitutionally ruled by 55 separate boards of education. Our focus is to tackle issues locally and seek resolutions from the board members in each of these counties, who are accountable to the citizens who elected them,” explained AFT-WV President Fred Albert.
Members who have specific health and safety concerns or COVID-19 related work issues and are interested in discussing a grievance are encouraged to contact their AFT local president or AFT staff representative at 1-800-222-9838.