Ballots were cast the next day by more than 200 of the union’s elected worksite representatives, with more than 97 percent supporting the no-confidence resolution, Lloyd said. Those supporting the measure came from almost every school in the county.
The school system’s reopening plan “cannot be successfully implemented . . . without negatively impacting students’ learning experience,” the union said in a statement, citing the need for “more resources, more people, and more space than is available.”
Montgomery County’s school board declined a proposal to meet Thursday with union members.
Schools system officials said they were surprised by the vote, pointing to a recent agreement on a number of pandemic-related issues and the school system’s inability to control vaccine distribution.
“The school system can never solve that problem, but we can certainly aggressively prepare for when vaccinations are available to make sure our staff members can get them if they choose to,” said Schools Superintendent Jack R. Smith, speaking to reporters Wednesday.
Smith said the school system had just reached agreement on a memorandum of understanding with the union that outlines expectations on a string of protocols and practices to increase safety in light of the continuing public health crisis.
“I was deeply perplexed,” Smith said of the vote.
Smith said he looked at all of the points made in the resolution. “Anything that we can gain from it, or learn from it, or use from it, we will,” he said.
Still, he and others said the plan they passed to open in March would move forward.
But many teachers see the reopening plan as flawed.
“It’s a halfhearted effort at complying with the governor’s demands as soon as possible,” said Suzie Djidjoli, a speech-language pathologist who was a member of a union bargaining team.
She said the plan shows a lack of thoughtfulness about staffing requirements and instructional models, including how students of color and those affected by poverty would be served, once the school system turned its attention to in-person learning.
Many of the most vulnerable children in the county are expected to stay in all-virtual learning.
Djidjoli said teachers would like to be vaccinated and that with shots now being offered, “we have the potential to delay the start of school until at least everyone has been offered a vaccination.”
Neighboring Prince George’s County announced its reopening plans Wednesday, saying that it would open in April and that every school employee interested in a vaccine could have one by then. It has vaccinated 5,000 of the 9,000 who are interested, officials said.
But holding off until April is at odds with a directive by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) that school systems make good-faith efforts to open by March 1. State officials have said they just learned of the Prince George’s plan and will evaluate it in the coming days.
State and federal officials have said teacher vaccinations are not a prerequisite for opening schools.
In Montgomery County, 5,100 school employees — in a workforce of 24,000 — have been vaccinated through the county’s effort with Johns Hopkins Medicine. Others may have been vaccinated through other efforts.
The measure passed by the union also called for the Board of Education to comply with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including a phased-in reopening of schools based on color-coded metrics.
As the union vote gained attention Wednesday, the county school board issued a statement saying it was deeply disappointed by the move.
The statement said the school system has worked collectively “to meet the moment” and stay focused on students, collaborating with the teachers union and others.
“However, collaboration does not supplant the singular responsibility and authority of the Board to make decisions,” it said.
At the same time, Smith issued a statement calling the reopening plan comprehensive, saying it “prioritizes the safety of students and staff and the continued academic growth of all students.”
He said safety measures would include social distancing, face coverings, hand-washing, case tracking, testing and self reporting of health status. The school system is focused on equity and providing strong instruction for students whether virtual or in-person, he said.