State Labor Board to Consider Sharon Teacher Dispute

The Sharon School Committee filed a petition with the Massachusetts Labor Relations Board to declare a strike as teachers continue to refuse to work in classrooms

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The state's labor board will consider a grievance, filed by the Sharon School Committee, as teachers in town refuse to work in school buildings.

Teachers have boycotted their classrooms in a push for remote learning amid the coronavirus pandemic from the Sharon Teachers Association. The union cited air quality concerns, which they claim do not meet minimum safety standards, in their demand that the district halt its hybrid learning plan.

Meanwhile, the school committee reaffirmed their expectation that school will start on Sept. 16 this year under a hybrid model Wednesday night. School officials had already filed a petition against the teachers union over their refusal to work in the classrooms earlier this week.

The Massachusetts Labor Relations Board will hear the committee's case Thursday at 10 a.m. as they seek the stoppage to be declare a strike, which is illegal under state law.

With school approaching, some teachers say they are not ready to go back to the classroom during the coronavirus pandemic.

The STA had planned to hold a rally in town and continue their boycott of on-site classroom development Wednesday, but later called off the gathering with a union representative saying it was “taking a step back” to reevaluate next steps.

The state labor board just ruled Andover teachers participated in an illegal strike when they refused to enter school buildings last week over what they called unsafe conditions. On Wednesday, Gov. Charlie Baker said he agreed with the ruling to get the teachers back in the building.

"The STA is disappointed that the School Committee and Superintendent were not thorough in their planning for a hybrid learning model,” union President Bernadette Murphy has said.

Sharon School Committee Chair Judy Crosby argued that school buildings are safe for the blended learning model because the town has "virtually no instances," of coronavirus and a 14-day case count of zero.

“I’m disappointed. I think that too many have lost sight of what we’re here for, which is the children," Crosby said.

As schools continue trying to figure out how to keep everyone safe this fall, teachers are pushing back against a rush into the classroom.

Members of the STA have been refusing to work inside the schools during professional development days prior to the students' return.

With the help of a state mediator, the STA and the school committee have met at least seven times to negotiate health and safety protocols.

As part of the bargaining, the district’s HVAC contractor evaluated the HVAC systems in Sharon schools, according to the STA. The union claims that none of the schools met minimum standards for maintaining air quality sufficient to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and the nurses’ offices recirculate indoor air to the administrative suites. 

"It is vital for their educational and emotional health that they be in school with their classmates and their teachers," Crosby said.

The STA has been maintaining that many other health and safety items remain unresolved, "making it impossible," to begin the school year with students and staff working in the buildings.

"Because of the School Committee and Superintendent’s inaction, that work will have to begin remotely," Murphy has said.

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