BOSTON (SHNS) – The American Federation of Teachers and its Massachusetts chapter, one of the largest educator unions in the state and the country, on Thursday called for a full resumption of in-person learning in the fall after more than a year of COVID-19 impacts.
AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos said rising vaccination rates and new vaccine authorization for children as young as 12 create “a clear pathway to full school reopening this fall.”
“In order to help our students recover from the impacts of the pandemic, schools must be open in person this fall, five days a week and full-time,” Kontos said in a statement, the same day that the union’s national head, Randi Weingarten, laid out a plan to bring students back in the fall.
Kontos said officials must work in the meantime to address concerns that some parents have about safety in schools by investing in upgraded ventilation, surveillance testing, classroom mitigation and more. Those concerns can be particularly acute in communities of color and low-income areas, she said.
“This summer, we need an all-hands-on-deck approach, supported by federal funding, to prepare our school buildings and systems for a safe reopening in the fall,” Kontos said. “In September, we need major investments to provide students with additional academic support through tutoring and smaller class sizes, as well as social-emotional support through counselors and other mental health professionals. We especially need additional support for students with special needs, English language learners, and other students who have struggled the most during the pandemic.”
The Baker administration has already called for elementary and middle school students to be brought back and set May 17 as the deadline for districts that still have not done so to resume full-time, in-person learning for high schoolers.