The following statement was issued today by Massachusetts Teachers Association President Merrie Najimy:
At the same time Governor Charlie Baker is advising families not to gather inside with others for the holidays because it is not safe, he is pressuring schools to open for full in-person learning. The state’s demands make no sense.
Indeed, educators have wanted nothing more than to be back in person with their students. It has been joyful for educators and students to be back together, no matter which model they are following. The state should not threaten or pressure districts to adopt practices that they have good reason to believe are not safe – and that is what is being done today.
We have questions and concerns about both the new COVID-19 metrics and the guidance announced today by the governor, Education Secretary James Peyser and Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley.
The new metrics will dramatically reduce the number of communities identified as high-risk just as the numbers of coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths are increasing in Massachusetts. There is a real disconnect between the changes and the current situation. In fact, the new metrics may encourage people to relax their guard when they should be more vigilant than ever.
The new guidance for schools is also counterproductive. Local communities have carefully considered health information from multiple sources and have negotiated practices that address the health and safety needs of both students and staff, as well as the educational and emotional needs of students. These decisions, which have not come easily, must be respected by the governor, the secretary and the commissioner.
If schools have not been a very big source of transmission so far, that is likely the case because most have opened gradually or under a hybrid model – and not fully in person – in order to maintain six feet of distancing. It makes no sense to jettison those safety practices now and crowd large numbers of students and staff into enclosed spaces, often in buildings with poor ventilation.
It looks like we are headed for a very dangerous winter as the flu season and the rising number of COVID-19 cases are about to collide. For the good of students, educators, families and communities, now is not the time to be relaxing health and safety standards.