Colorado’s largest education union says safety strikes could be last resort this fall


DENVER (KDVR) — In about a month, Colorado schools will either be opening their doors or their laptops to begin what will be viewed as one of the most challenging school years for teachers on record. The state’s largest union for educators says if concerns over reopening aren’t addressed, striking for safety could be a last resort.

And polling shows there’s strong support for the idea.

“In some ways, it feels like what we’re doing is a giant experiment on our students and on our educators and that is a scary thought for many of us,” said Colorado Education Association President Amie Baca-Oehlert. “There are so many logistical questions that need to be answered, from ‘How are we entering and exiting the school building?’ to ‘What are the passing periods going to look like?'”

CEA polled 9,800 educators across 122 of Colorado’s 178 school districts. Seventy-eight percent of respondents said they would join their colleagues in a strike if their concerns over safety, equity and transparency aren’t met. 

“Something that is a last resort because it is that important that we ensure the health and safety off our students and of our fellow colleagues,” Baca-Oehlert said.

This comes as one of the largest teacher’s unions in the country called for safety strikes as a last resort if negotiations for safety don’t meet demands.

CEA has four demands as a baseline for reopening schools:

  1. Employees’ voices and safety must drive decision-making through honoring bargaining rights or a vote of approval from all employees.
  2. Safety protections, protocols and precautions must be provided by school districts for all students and staff. 
  3. The community must be provided with transparency and data that has driven the decision-making process. 
  4. Equity for students, staff and families must always be provided, no matter where the learning is occurring.

Baca-Oehlert says Gov. Jared Polis should step in and create clear guidelines, or even requirements for districts when it comes to safety protocol, switching from in-person learning to moving to hybrid or remote models.

“There certainly is room for local control but there should be some overarching guiding principals coming from the state that is telling districts when it is safe to be in-person learning, when a district should go to remote learning,” Baca-Oehlert said. “Learning will happen and should happen one way or another. What we’re calling for is that learning happen in the safest way possible.”

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