77 'extremely anxious' Franklin teachers sign COVID-19 grievance

The Wisconsin Education Association Council is accusing the Franklin School District of violating state law by failing to meet with teachers in the district to address their concerns on COVID-19 safety. Seventy-seven teachers signed a grievance in September. As of Wednesday, Oct. 28, 13 students in the district were isolated, and 240 quarantined.

The teachers filed a grievance with the district over COVID-19 safety practices inside schools. The union says a meeting between teachers and the district has yet to happen. 

"Educators in Franklin and, actually, many other places, but especially Franklin, are extremely anxious right now," said Ted Kraig, regional director of WEAC.

Kraig said the district is breaking the law. 

"The district basically took three weeks to respond, and they said, 'We refuse to process this grievance. We won’t meet to discuss it,'" he said.
In a statement, Franklin Superintendent Judy Mueller insisted the district addressed the grievance. She also said the district continues to “prioritize the health and safety of its entire school community.” 

"Our attorneys, at some point, sent a letter to the district saying, 'Look, you are legally obligated to have this grievance procedure,'" said Kraig.

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Some of the concerns raised by teachers include: 

  • Continuation of “in-person” learning, with teachers saying, “Large numbers of people spend significant time indoors in close proximity to one another.”
  • "Class sizes” and “ventilation and filtration," with teachers saying, "The district has no serious plan to go virtual."

"They’re very concerned," said Kraig.

On Tuesday, Wisconsin set a record for positive COVID-19 cases. 

"Why not sit down and have a conversation?" said Kraig.

Superintendent Mueller said, at this point, the metrics do not signal a need to shift to at-home instruction, especially given that over the past 14 days, 99% of students were not infected by the virus. 

Statement from Superintendent Mueller

"Since March 13th, our journey to reopen schools has been complex, and at times, even uncomfortable, as we navigated the rapidly changing conditions related to COVID-19. We are proud of the over 700 staff that report to work every day to support our Franklin students. Our goal as we approached the 2020-21 school year has always been to provide the highest quality educational opportunities while getting kids safely back into school.  We have done our best to meet the needs of the Franklin community throughout the entirety of our planning process. We know that students are best served by being in school. In order to ensure our families had as much flexibility as possible, we made the decision to offer both an in-person learning program and a virtual learning program. When presented with that option, 80% of our students chose the in-person learning program.

"In order to ensure the best possible learning environment for our 3,700 in-person students and over 700 staff, we put in place a comprehensive list of health and sanitation protocols to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in our eight buildings. These protocols can be reviewed in our July 28 and August 14 district newsletters. All of our planning was done in collaboration with the Franklin Health Department, which has been an invaluable partner during these uncertain times.  

"Our collaboration with the Franklin Health Department resulted in our joint “Metrics and Transition Plan”, which outlines the key metrics we monitor on a daily basis. These metrics are transparently shared with our community weekly.  These metrics contain four trigger points that would signal the need to shift to at-home learning. We use these trigger points to monitor our ongoing ability to maintain in-person instruction. At this point in time, the metrics do not signal a need to shift to at-home instruction, especially given that over the past 14-days, 99% of our students were not infected by the virus.

"On September 10, a grievance was filed on behalf of 77 of our over 700 employees. The District addressed the grievance in accordance with the District’s grievance procedure. The District continues to prioritize the health and safety of its entire school community.

"Please see the following statement from Dr. Judy Mueller, our District Administrator:

“The safety and wellbeing of our staff, students, and the community are extremely important to all of us. Franklin Public Schools has responded to the input from our families in providing learning both in-person and virtual learning. We have since the beginning of the school year conveyed the metrics that would be used to pivot classrooms and schools to virtual learning. These metrics have been provided to all staff and families every Friday and have not been changed.

"Our students and staff have followed all safety protocols and for the last 8 weeks. Disinfecting and sanitation occur at high levels throughout the day and all ventilation complies with state codes for safety standards.  

"We are proud of our staff, students, and families and will continue to work together to provide our students with the best possible educational experience during this difficult time.”

Dr. Judy Mueller

FPS District Administrator