The following statement was issued today by MTA President Merrie Najimy:
Today’s vote by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to require all public school staff and students older than 5 to wear masks while in school is a significant advancement toward keeping our communities safe as we prepare for a return to full in-person learning.
For weeks, the MTA has been urging Governor Charlie Baker’s administration to adopt the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for mask-wearing in schools. Based on science and the views of public health experts, we know that a mask requirement will help protect all Massachusetts students, families and educators. Moreover, it will help ensure the safety of communities of color, which continue to endure structural racism and therefore are the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Students of all ages have been champions from the beginning. They quickly learned an important lesson of life – that when they wear their masks, they are protecting their peers, educators, and the entire school community. Masks have become routine for them. We can count on students to do their part once again to help this comprehensive policy succeed as classes resume.
As we have been saying for many months now, our top priority is to get our schools open safely and keep them open for full in-person learning. This vote is a step toward that goal.
The MTA remains committed to continuing to lead in protecting the common good, and we still believe that additional steps must be taken to best protect students, educators, families and communities.
We will continue to call for required vaccinations for all school employees – subject to bargaining – and for all eligible students.
We also need weekly reporting on COVID-19 cases – particularly those involving young people, and with a special emphasis on statistics from our schools, colleges, and universities. And in accord with recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics, we believe that the state, school districts and campuses must guarantee the following:
- Upgraded ventilation systems that meet COVID-19 health and safety standards.
- Access to appropriate face coverings for all students and staff and full adoption of CDC mask guidelines, which urge the use of such coverings for all students aged 2 and above.
- Rapid and consistent access to COVID-19 testing for all students and education staff.
- Appropriate physical distancing in education settings.