The following statement was released today by MTA President Merrie Najimy:
Vaccinating educators is a key aspect of making our schools safe, but it is not a precondition for opening buildings. Unfortunately, Massachusetts is far behind the rest of the country in prioritizing both preK-12 educators and higher education faculty and staff.
In terms of public schools, vaccinating educators will enable more schools to educate more students in person, but it is not the sole mitigation strategy required. Until the pandemic is under control, schools will still need to adhere to CDC-recommended safety measures, including ventilation to control COVID-19 infection, masking and distancing. The state must provide adequate funding. In addition, it must reduce community transmission by limiting indoor gatherings at bars, casinos and other nonessential businesses while providing financial resources to sustain workers and small businesses for the long run.
Educators, like families and students, want nothing more than to return to in-person learning. This is especially important in communities of color, which have been most impacted by the virus.
Educators’ unions, working with the firefighters’ union and other local partners, have a plan that would facilitate the speedy vaccination of school staff at the local level.
Children are contracting COVID-19 at a high rate. Department of Public Health data show that Massachusetts residents aged 0 to 19 had the highest number of COVID-19 cases — 9,817 — among all reported age groups in the two weeks prior to Feb. 2. So parents, especially in communities of color, have been opting their children out of in-person learning due to very real health concerns. The needs and concerns of those families must be taken into consideration in district reopening decisions.
Despite the concerns and the high number of cases in the state, more than half of Massachusetts’ educators are now teaching in the classroom. Educators’ unions, working with the firefighters’ union and other local partners, have a plan that would facilitate the speedy vaccination of school staff at the local level. This plan should be approved quickly since the new more contagious virus variants could lead to another surge in cases.
The sooner such a vaccination plan is implemented, the sooner more students can benefit from in-person learning.