Advocates are calling on Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker to keep schools closed amid the coronavirus crisis, claiming he has set off a "firestorm of concern" for educators and parents by failing to do so yet.
"We are in the middle of a surge of cases," Massachusetts Teachers Association President Merrie Najimy said.
"The governor’s suggestion last week that he may reopen schools before the end of the year, in part to administer 'competency tests,' has set off a firestorm of concern among educators and parents — who believe that the priority must continue to be meeting the social, emotional and academic needs of students through remote learning."
The statement from the MTA came about an hour before Baker's scheduled coronavirus update at the State House at noon Tuesday. Baker told reporters Friday that he hadn't yet decided on whether classrooms will remain closed through the end of the school year, as New Hampshire announced on Thursday, but that a decision was coming soon.
"Educators and other school staff miss their students and their colleagues. They miss the structure of the school day. But keeping our students, staff and communities safe must be our highest priority right now," Najimy said. "It is time for the state to end the uncertainty and confusion surrounding this issue and exercise decisive leadership."
Massachusetts is now being labeled as a coronavirus hotspot in the nation, with the Department of Public Health reporting almost 40,000 cases and just over 1,800 deaths Monday to date.
"We all eagerly look forward to the day when our students can return to their classrooms, including the children of our members, who are also at home during this difficult period. But these are extraordinary times, and they call for extraordinary leadership," Najimy said. "Keep the school doors closed until the public health and the safety of our students and staff can be assured."
The MTA suggests that remote learning should continue in Massachusetts for the remainder of the year, despite their acknowledgement that education is more effective in person.
The association is also demanding that local school districts and higher education campuses do not lay off teachers during the crisis.
"Remote learning is a tremendous, time-consuming challenge. All staff are needed to make sure it is successful and that students are reached, often one by one, to prevent learning gaps from growing wider," Najimy said. "Layoffs would also have a negative impact on our communities and our economy. Moreover, it is clear that we will need all staff to be in place and ready to return to our schools and campuses when it is safe to do so."