FILE - Washington High School

A staff member in a Bothell, Washington high school.

(The Center Square) — A Washington state teachers' union wants K-12 classes put online indefinitely to mitigate public health risks to its members and students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A statement released by the Washington Education Association urged Gov. Jay Inslee to order schools in the state pivot to virtual learning until it's safe to reopen schools.

“We know that in-person teaching and learning is best for both students and educators, and educators want nothing more than to get back into schools with our students,” the statement said. “The reality is that, with very few exceptions, we are nowhere close to containing the spread of this virus and nowhere close to being able to guarantee the health and safety of our students, educators, families, and communities.”

WEA stressed that the governor should take immediate action so that online training can begin for teachers as soon as possible ahead of the coming school year.

“If we proceed with opening schools for in-person learning while the number of cases continues to grow, some students, educators, and family members will contract the virus,” the statement continued. “Some will recover.  Some will have long-lasting health complications.  And some will die. These are the facts and they cannot be denied."

The WEA also emphasized the number of its older members that are at increased health risks from COVID-19.

Inslee's office could not be reached for comment.

The average age of a Washington K-12 teacher is 43.7 years old, according to the Nation Center for Education Statistics. A report from the University of Washington found that approximately 32 percent of Washington teachers are over 50 years old.

The news follows a decision from the Seattle Public School district earlier this week to take online education until further notice after much controversy.

School begins for Washington students in first through 12th grades on September 2. Pre-K and kindergarten classes begin on September 8.

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.