FILE - Seattle Students

Students who were dropped off by a school bus walk past a location in south Seattle Tuesday, March 3, 2020, where King County will be placing several temporary housing units to house patients undergoing treatment and isolation in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus. 

(The Center Square) — Seattle Public Schools will open its doors one week later than planned following failed negotiations with teachers.

The district's date for reopening classrooms for preschoolers, kindergarteners, and first graders, was pegged for March 1. That date has now moved to March 8.

A third-party mediator with the state's Public Employment Relations Commission will help the district mediate the dispute between it and teachers union members who are holding out for clearer public safety measures for onsite classrooms.

Last week, CDC released updated guidelines advising that teachers resume in-person learning and also recommended them for priority COVID-19 vaccinations. 

Washington Education Association (WEA) members have long contended they would be willing to return to in-person learning as soon as most teachers are vaccinated. 

According to state school data, about 25% of public schools around the state were open for in-person learning in a given day and nearly 30% in a given week. K-5 elementary schools continue to make up the majority of those numbers as 32% resume in-person learning daily and 40% weekly.

Speaking with KIRO Radio on Friday, WEA President Larry Delaney shared his union's opinion that workplace health risks should determine what priority groups the state vaccinates.

"I think the governor has made his position very clear that he believes that vaccinations should be prioritized based on age," Delaney said. "We disagree. We believe that prioritization should be given to educators working in-person."

Washington is currently prioritizing health care workers, people in long-term care facilities, and seniors 65 years and older, including Gov. Jay Inslee and Bill Gates, for vaccinations.

Like many states, Washington saw delays in promised vaccine shipments over Presidents Day Weekend due to blizzards back east. Many distribution sites expect bigger shipments later this week, the Seattle Times reports.

Cumulative COVID-19 case numbers continue to climb in Washington, but its daily case rate this month has now seen 12 days with fewer than 1,000 daily cases, a first since October.

Some 4,857 people in the state have died from the virus to date. Another 317,223 people have been sickened by it, the Washington Department of Health (DOH) reports.

The CDC's COVID Tracker shows about 5% of people in Washington are fully vaccinated and another 17% have received at least one dose.

Inslee set the goal of administering 45,000 vaccinations per day, but so far the state has only seen an average of 26,000 per day, DOH data shows.

Washington schools may be hard-pressed in the coming school year to make up for virtual class time lost to the pandemic, power outages, and student stress. A bill would offer students a "bridge year" to account for those problems and cut out months-long summer vacations. 

Seattle Public Schools will hold a special board meeting on Thursday to share its thoughts on next steps with parents and students.

Staff Reporter

Tim Gruver is a politics and public policy reporter. He is a University of Washington alum and the recipient of the 2017 Pioneer News Award for Reporting. His work has appeared in Politico, the Kitsap Daily News, and the Northwest Asian Weekly.