The leaders of three Massachusetts teachers unions are supporting emergency legislation filed by state lawmakers that would require the state’s education commissioner to give school districts more time to prepare for the return of elementary school students to full-time, in-person lessons.
The Massachusetts Teachers Association, the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts, and the Boston Teachers Union said the legislation would allow more school workers to get a vaccine before returning, The Boston Globe reported.
Teachers and other school workers became vaccine eligible last week.
State Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley has ordered school districts to return pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade students to classrooms for full-time instruction by April 5. Middle schoolers are scheduled to return April 28.
Beth Kontos, president of the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts, said it is unfair and unrealistic to require school staff to return to in-person classes without the protection of a vaccine.
Gov. Charlie Baker last week announced that the state has set aside four weekend days over the next month exclusively for educators to receive shots at the state’s mass vaccination sites.
“More than 80% of school districts are already teaching students in-person or hybrid,” Baker spokesperson Sarah Finlaw said in a statement Sunday. “Months of data from right here in Massachusetts and countless studies from world class medical organizations have made clear that schools are safe for in person learning. No legitimate public health or medical organization, nor the CDC, recommends vaccinating all teachers before reopening schools.”
State Reps. Lindsay Sabadosa and James Hawkins filed emergency legislation Wednesday that would prevent Riley from requiring that districts return to in-person learning before April 26.