Andover Teachers Refuse to Enter School Buildings, Citing Coronavirus Concerns

The Andover School Committee will meet Monday to discuss litigation options as teachers refuse to enter school buildings amid the coronavirus crisis

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The Andover School Committee is taking legal action after teachers refused to enter schools amid the coronavirus pandemic and instead reported to work outside the buildings.

Teachers worked on laptops outside the building Monday morning, remotely participating in a professional development day ahead of the start of school on Sept. 16.

Teachers in Andover were required to report to school Monday, but many refused to go inside in protest of the coronavirus risk.

The Andover Education Association teachers union planned the demonstration to highlight coronavirus concerns among educators as the school district moves forward with their decision to reopen classrooms.

"The Andover Education Association might believe this is a 'workplace safety action.' It is, in fact, considered an illegal work stoppage," Andover Public Schools spokeswoman Nicole Kieser said in a statement.

The town's school committee met for an executive session at 4:30 p.m. Monday to discuss options for potential litigation, voting 5-0 to get the school district's legal counsel involved.

"Today was an important day for our educators to work in person for professional development," chairperson Shannon Scully of the school committee said in a statement. "It is a missed opportunity."

Meanwhile, professional development in the school buildings for educators was expected to continue on Tuesday.

“It is unfortunate that some our educators did not report to school buildings for their first day of work," Kieser said, noting that the district has spent "thousands of hours and invested hundreds of thousands of dollars," to plan for the upcoming school year, "with health and safety of our students and staff as a top priority."

Families "overwhelmingly" chose the hybrid model for their children to return to school this fall, according to Kieser. Each school in the district communicated with staff to check-in inside their respective buildings for professional development Monday.

“Today’s action by the Andover Education Association (AEA) shows a disregard for our families and students, who have confidence in the district’s work to ensure our buildings are safe for our students and staff," Kieser said.

"The goal is not to open schools, the goal is to keep them open," former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, adding that "Massachusetts has done a relatively good job."

The Massachusetts Teachers Association has been pushing back against state guidelines, recently 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. 

Meanwhile, Andover isn't the only district where teachers are refusing to teach from the classroom due to safety concerns related to the coronavirus. Teachers in Sharon are also pushing back against the decision after their School Committee voted to adopt a hybrid learning model.

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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