school reopening

Andover Teachers Engaged in Unlawful Strike, State Labor Board Rules

The Andover Education Association has been ordered to immediately cease the strike after teachers refused to enter school buildings due to coronavirus concerns

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Andover teachers participated in unlawful strike when they refused to enter school buildings for training last week, the Massachusetts Labor Relations Board ruled Tuesday.

The decision could set a precedent for districts across the state, where teachers unions are calling for remote-only learning amid the coronavirus pandemic including in Sharon.

Andover Education Association leaders are being ordered to immediately cease the strike, or any other activity that hinders work at the schools, after nearly half the union membership didn't show up on Aug. 31.

A leader with the teachers' union told NBC10 Boston Wednesday afternoon that the association was deeply disappointed with the decision.

The teachers refused to enter the schools, citing coronavirus concerns, and instead worked on laptops outside the building to participate remotely in a professional development day ahead of the start of school on Sept. 16.

The Andover School Committee countered with legal action last week, and said they are "grateful," for the board's ruling in a statement Wednesday.

“We are fortunate to have so many talented educators in Andover and we are pleased they have returned to work focused on important preparation to welcome students back to school next week," Andover School Committee Chair Shannon Scully said.

Scully noted the implications of the labor board's decision for public schools across the Commonwealth, "and their efforts to provide students with in-person instruction during this unprecedented time."

In a coronavirus briefing Wedensday, Gov. Charlie Baker sided with the school board, saying the state had struck an unprecedented deal with teachers unions to take 10 days out of the academic year for training and preparation ahead of the school year.

“I think Andover made the right decision by arguing that a deal is a deal, that there was an agreement that those 10 days will be spent conducting training that was necessary for however that school district was going back in, and I applaud the decision," he said. "I think it was the right one.”

The demonstration by the union in Andover mirrors others in the state meant to highlight coronavirus concerns among educators as school districts reopen.

Teachers in Andover, Massachusetts, were supposed to report to work Monday, but many refused to go into the building because of the coronavirus risk.

The school committee in Sharon has filed a petition with the board to declare a strike as teachers in the district boycott school buildings due to air quality concerns. A protest is planned in Sharon Town Center at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday to voice their concerns.

The Lawrence Teachers’ Union is also protesting Wednesday, demanding that certain health and safety criteria be met before educators return to the classroom full-time, including upgraded ventilation in school buildings and access to rapid on-site COVID testing.

The Massachusetts Teachers Association has been pushing back against state guidelines, released by the education commissioner, that require teachers to return to their classrooms, even for remote learning.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is calling for teachers and staff -- even in fully remote districts -- to go back into schools to lead remote learning from their classrooms. The new guidelines are to help provide more consistency for students and more reliable resources for teachers, according to Commissioner Jeff Riley. 

Over 70% of the state's 371 school districts said they will offer hybrid or in-person learning this fall, with only 30% proposing fully remote plans.

NBC10 Boston has built a map of all the public school districts in the region. Some districts' plans are still being added, while some districts already listed on the map may announce their plans in the days ahead. Please check back frequently for the most up-to-date plans.

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