WEA Update: July 28 WCSD BOT meeting
Dear WEA Members,
As you are aware, the WCSD Board of Trustees (BOT) voted last night that schools will reopen for in-person instruction for the 2020-2021 school year, a decision the WEA has opposed and still opposes. This decision is also contrary to the recommendation of the Washoe County Health Department, the agency WCSD has been consulting with and following directives from, for several months. Again, while we are primarily concerned about member safety, we have received no guarantees from WCSD regarding non-paid leaves of absence, distance learning positions being available for those with health issues, modifications to sick leave policies in the event an employee experiences COVID-19 symptoms/quarantine, as well as other issues and concerns. We will continue to consult with WCSD to secure these employment benefits for our members and will provide more information to you as soon as it becomes available.
Furthermore, we are reviewing all available options in order to advocate for our members, particularly those who have concerns about returning to teach in-person, due to their own health issues, health issues of their family members, or otherwise. We will provide more information to you regarding these efforts as soon as possible.
We realize there are many different opinions when it comes to the reopening. We are very aware of the importance of advocating for our profession, to be treated as professionals, and not feeling guilty because we raise questions with our employer regarding a safe working environment. We all want to teach in the school building so we can physically meet with our students (whether in pre-K or in high school) on a daily basis but this must be done in a safe environment. We also recognize the WEA’s main “role” in WCSD is to make sure the Collective Bargaining Agreement is being followed for our employees’ safety.
In a related issue, it has come to WEA’s attention that some of you may have been presented with “waivers” from the District designed to release the District from all liability in the event you or someone in your family contract COVID-19 as a result of your work for the District. Enclosed is a copy of such a waiver that we know has been presented to some of you who coach.
If the District presents you with this or any other waiver, please do not sign it and notify WEA immediately.
WEA has consulted with legal counsel, and we have been advised that presentation of such a waiver to a WEA member is unlawful. Your right to a safe workplace and right to file a worker’s compensation claim cannot be waived, and such waivers are unlawful under Nevada law. Further, “safety of the employee” is a mandatory subject of bargaining pursuant to NRS 288.150, and if the District wishes to have employees sign such waivers, it must bargain, or at least obtain permission first, from WEA, and we can tell you right now that the answer is “NO!” You have a right to a safe workplace, and WEA will continue to fight to ensure you get it.
We wanted you to be aware that the waiver states, among other things, “While rules and regulations put in place by the State of Nevada and the Washoe County School District and my own personal discipline and my (sic) may reduce this risk, I acknowledge that the risk of serious illness and death does exist, and may be more serious if either myself or my child had a pre-existing condition;….” Due to the seriousness of this issue, and since we are unable to determine who is currently coaching and who is not, we felt it was important to include this “waiver” information in this email.
Please note we are unaware of any waiver being presented by WCSD to licensed educators in their role as licensed educators. We know there have been discussions regarding this issue at the federal and state level, and if WCSD were to consider such a waiver for our licensed educators we would request it be discussed via the bargaining process.
Natha and Tom