AFT and MTA respond to new DESE mask guidelines

Coronavirus Local Impact

BOSTON (WWLP) – The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) in a statement Friday urged lawmakers in Boston to require universal mask wearing in K-6 schools.

A new guidance from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) suggests that educators and students in K-6 schools implement universal mask guidelines but does not require it. This goes against the recent guidelines released by the CDC which suggests that all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask while indoors due to the contagious nature of the Delta variant.

“The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education needs to listen to health experts, including the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics, and require – not just recommend – universal mask wearing in K-6 schools this fall. If DESE continues to reject public health guidance and fails to act, local school committees need to step up and require universal mask wearing to keep us all safe and to maximize the likelihood of schools staying open this school year.

AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos

Kontos later in her statement mentions that until there is a CDC approved method to vaccinate all school-aged children, schools should be required to follow what she describes as basic health precautions.

In a separate statement issued Friday, the President of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, Merrie Najimy, urged the DESE to repair ventilation systems and monitor and maintain air quality in school buildings in addition to requiring universal masking.

“The MTA strongly advocates for safe in-person learning. To ensure this can happen, we must employ the most stringent health and safety practices possible. . . The MTA strongly advocates for safe in-person learning. To ensure this can happen, we must employ the most stringent health and safety practices possible.”

Massachusetts Teachers Association President Merrie Najimy

Both the MTA and the Massachusetts chapter of the AFT have expressed their belief that the current plan by the DESE does not do enough to protect children who are too young to receive the vaccine.

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