Teachers unions in Massachusetts are demanding what they say is the same approach the state has taken with reopening the economy when it comes to going back to school.
The phased reopening is outlined in a Public School Reopening Proposal released Monday night by the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the American Federation of Teachers of Massachusetts and the Boston Teachers Union.
"We cannot realistically, safely bring everybody back to school all at once," said MTA President Merrie Najimy.
The process starts by giving teachers and educators time to prepare, allowing them to meet with students and families and then evaluate how the return to school is going over a six-week period.
They are also calling for health and safety guidelines that include surveying each district for the personal protective equipment needs, enforcing six feet of social distance, requiring masks at all times, checking and updating HVAC systems as needed and having protocols in place for positive cases of COVID-19.
The unions said that they are fighting for the health and safety of students through their proposals, which have support from 97% of over 300 MTA local association leaders.
"Our schools cannot go back to the conditions under which they operated before COVID-19 or we will fail our students, families, educators and communities at the time of their greatest need," the proposal states.
"The number one priority of educators is to be with their students," said Najimy. "However, it cannot come at the expense of everyone's health and safety."
The unions will be negotiating their terms with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education over the coming weeks.
"No educator believes that we can keep students and adults safe at three feet of physical distance – and without enough PPE or without having a full ensemble of staff," said Najimy.
"The kids should go back to school because it's a safe place for them to go, not because it's inconvenient for parents to keep them home," said parent Eric Miller of Plymouth.