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Teachers union plans lawsuit over W.Va. schools return plan

PARKERSBURG — A statewide teachers union is planning to file an injunction regarding the return of students to in-person schooling next week.

The American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia announced Thursday plans to file an injunctive action against the West Virginia Board of Education, the West Virginia Department of Education, and several county boards of education in order to protect the health and safety of school employees.

The announcement came a day after the state board”s vote that, starting on Jan. 19, PreK-8 schools will attend in-person instruction regardless of their county’s color on the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources County Alert System map.

AFT-WV will also file an amicus brief in support of any county board that continues to assert its legal right to govern its school system and make locally-based decisions to protect students, staff, and communities.

“We feel the local school board should have the authority to decide how and when they want to reopen their schools” AFT-WV President Fred Albert said. “We just think that’s the best way because they know what’s going on in their local communities. For that authority to be taken away by the State Board of Education flies in the face of local control. So that’s why we’re taking the measures that we have taken.”

“We want schools to reopen,” he added. “We want students to be back in school. We know that remote instruction is difficult for everyone. It’s very difficult for the teachers, it’s difficult for children, especially those who have connectivity problems. But we feel that should be a local school board decision. We’re defending our members, our teachers, service personnel, students and their families in this being a local school board decision.”

AFT-WV represents teachers and school service personnel in public schools, as well as the interests of teachers, counselors, librarians, custodians, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, nurses, classroom aides, clerical employees. AFT-WV does not represent administrators.

The announcement stated that AFT-WV’s attorney is currently drafting the filing and will be filing it as soon as it is complete, likely early next week.

Another issue is forcing a return to in-person learning without all school faculty and staff being vaccinated by next Tuesday. Albert said that according to the WVDE, a survey was sent out to state school employees if they would want the vaccination. Seventy-five percent of employees said they would take the vaccine, but some were unable to receive it, according to Albert.

“We’re asking for them to hold off until they can get their employees vaccinated if they want it and add that extra layer of safety,” Albert said. “If we could stay remote until the vaccination starts getting out and doing its work, we feel that would be a safer place for everyone. And once that would take place, then we could start bringing students back into the classroom five days a week for classes.”

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