Closure of schools is the right step

Closure of schools is the right step

The following statement was issued this evening by Massachusetts Teachers Association President Merrie Najimy:

“The state’s decision to close schools throughout the Commonwealth is the right step for students, educators and our communities — though we wish it had been taken when we first called for decisive action. The plan for a three-week closure makes sense, since it provides a level of consistency that we have not yet seen from our state and national leaders. But Massachusetts must prepare to extend the closure as needed while we deal with the consequences of the deadly COVID-19 virus.

“Above all, we must pursue every measure needed to stem the spread of the coronavirus for the protection of students, families, educators, and all residents of Massachusetts. As we do so, we must ensure that the common good remains at the forefront. Communities, counties and the state must prioritize the immediate development of a robust social safety net for children who depend on the schools for meals and address the needs of people who are housing insecure. Those who devote their lives to working with students — including Education Support Professionals and other school staff — must continue to receive essential pay and benefits as the state does all it can to turn the corner on the crisis.

“In addition, the Baker administration and state agencies must ensure that everyone in Massachusetts has access to vital resources, including coronavirus testing, affordable health insurance, and paid family and medical leave. Financial assistance for families must be provided when caretakers and parents need to stay home with children.

“This cannot be an afterthought. Our economy is under severe strain, and COVID-19 calls for extraordinary steps. It is our government’s responsibility to be certain that the economic security of employees — particularly those whose livelihoods are in significant jeopardy during this period — remains a top priority.

“Those who devote their lives to working with students — including Education Support Professionals and other school staff — must continue to receive essential pay and benefits as the state does all it can to turn the corner on the crisis.”

– Merrie Najimy, MTA President

“The move to drastically curtail or shut down services at restaurants and other establishments will have a major impact on low-wage workers. To address the problems that will ensue, a moratorium must be put in place immediately on all foreclosures, evictions, and utility shutoffs.

“The MTA continues to analyze the measures the governor announced this evening, and we will be calling for further action in the days following the closure of all Massachusetts schools on Tuesday. But important principles must guide us now and in the future.

“We remain deeply concerned not only about what happens in our schools, but also on our public college and university campuses. At all levels, the state’s actions must be determined by what it will take to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of students, families, and educators.

“As it does for preK-12 students, the state must make provisions to care for college students who are housing or food insecure. Moreover, all public higher education employees — regardless of whether they are salaried, contingent or paid hourly — must continue to receive paychecks when their workplaces modify the way they operate.

“At public colleges and universities, on-campus classes for the rest of the spring term must be canceled, and time must be provided to allow for preparation for the one-time emergency use of remote learning.

“Faculty and staff need safe working conditions — and they need the technology, training and other supports to make this endeavor successful for students, as well as the other resources required to maintain a productive teaching and learning environment.

“Finally, we reiterate our call for the immediate cancellation of the MCAS tests this spring in public schools throughout the state. This will reduce the extraordinary amount of stress that both students and educators are under and remove an unnecessary mandate that has numerous negative impacts on our schools.

“We are glad to see that state leaders now understand that decisive action, rather that piecemeal steps, are needed to address the coronavirus. As always, our 116,000 members stand ready to do everything they can to help students, families and the state weather the storm for as long as it lasts.”