The union representing Sharon teachers demanded Tuesday that the district’s School Committee halt its plan to begin the year in a hybrid fashion that would bring students back inside school buildings part time.
According to the Sharon Teachers Association, a district HVAC contractor evaluated the HVAC systems in each Sharon school and “found that none of the schools met minimum standards for maintaining air quality sufficient to help prevent the spread of COVID-19,” the group wrote in a statement. The nurses' office, in particular, recirculates air to the administrative offices, according to the association.
Because of this, the teachers have determined that the buildings are “not yet meeting minimum standards for safe air quality," and they want students to begin the year remotely “until all health and safety issues with school buildings can be resolved.”
Sharon Public Schools are slated to begin on Sept. 16. Members of the teachers association have been refusing to work inside school buildings during professional development days that have been held ahead of the students' return. They are actively negotiating health and safety protocols with the School Committee.
The teachers plan to hold a demonstration in Sharon’s town center Wednesday afternoon to push for a remote start to the academic year.
“The STA is disappointed that the School Committee and superintendent were not thorough in their planning for a hybrid learning model,” Sharon Teachers Association president Bernadette Murphy said in a statement. “Educators remain committed to working with the administration to ensure that students have a successful year — academically, socially, and emotionally. Because of the School Committee and superintendent’s inaction, that work will have to begin remotely.”
Meanwhile, the Sharon School Committee said Tuesday that the teachers' refusal to work from their classrooms this week is an “illegal job action.”
The committee filed a petition with the Massachusetts Labor Relations Board to declare it a strike. Under Massachusetts law, “no public employee or employee organization” can “induce, encourage, or condone any strike, work stoppage, slowdown, or withholding of services by such public employees.”
“Students are scheduled to start classes in person next week under a hybrid plan approved by the Sharon School Committee and it is vital for their educational and emotional health that they be in school with their classmates and their teachers,” Judith K. Crosby, chair of the Sharon School Committee, said in a statement.
“Teachers were required to report in person today for professional development regarding hybrid learning and to prepare their classrooms for the new school year. Specific questions about our health and safety plan and the technology that supports hybrid teaching can only be answered by being inside the building,” Crosby added.