MALDEN (CBS) – Massachusetts teachers rallied outside the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education building in Malden demanding a safe return to schools Wednesday.
In the midst of a pandemic, it’s become a challenge for districts to figure out just what that model is.
“I want schools to be kept clean and safe for us. I want all of us to have materials we need; we can’t share anything. There’s so many moving parts,” said Malden science teacher Leslie Morrison.
The protest comes a day after the state’s largest teachers union passed a motion pushing for all-remote learning for the first few weeks of the school year, saying it’s not yet safe to bring staff and students back.
“We’re not putting a timeline; we’re saying we can’t go back to buildings until they’re inspected and upgraded and meet environmental health and safety standards,” said Merrie Najimy, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association. Najimy said the motion gives union members leverage as they negotiate their return with cities and towns.
But an elementary school teacher who does not want to be identified said if protocols are followed, she wants to meet her new students in person. “People are underestimating the social/emotional piece of all of this. If we’re able to be with the kids the first two to three weeks, we can really hone in on that.”
Governor Baker has urged districts to get as many students as possible back to school. But in Fitchburg, the head of the teachers union is supporting the phased-in approach, saying he’s concerned about virus upticks.
“The virus hasn’t gone away. It’s waiting to rear its ugly head again,” said Adam Cordio, president of the Fitchburg Education Association.
Teachers said it’s difficult now to even plan for the new school year with the clock ticking, and they want a voice in the decision-making process.
“It’s one thing to have a plan sent to the commissioner’s office in check, it’s another to have a plan with teachers brought on board that has been collectively bargained,” said Mike Colson, a Westford teacher.
Districts have until Aug. 10 to submit their final reopening plans, whether it’s all-remote, in-person, or a combination of the two.