By Beth Germano

LAWRENCE (CBS) – Teachers in the city of Lawrence took to the streets to demand health and safety criteria be met as they negotiate working conditions for a return to in-classroom learning next week.

“Not all of our schools have HVAC systems. Less than half of the 20 to 21 schools have HVAC systems,” said Mindy Richardson of the Lawrence teachers union.

Teachers in Lawrence rallied to demand health and safety criteria be met as they negotiate working conditions for a return to in-classroom learning next week. (WBZ-TV)

Their protest comes on the same day the Massachusetts Labor Relations Board ruled that teachers in neighboring Andover engaged in an unlawful strike last week when they prepared for school on laptops outside, instead of inside the buildings.

It’s a ruling that has the state’s largest teachers union fuming. “The court’s decision aligns with the Governor’s reckless drive toward normalcy in times that are not normal,” said Merrie Najimy, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association.

But the board ruled, “The union cites no legislation, permission, reasonable accommodation or bargained-for agreement that permitted its members without consequence to unilaterally dictate where they perform their work.”

In the town of Sharon, the school committee has also filed a complaint to get teachers back in the classroom. Teachers are also citing safety concerns and have been unable to reach an agreement. The school committee is heartened by the Andover decision.

“We’re in a situation to get kids the education they deserve and families need it,” said Judy Crosby, president of the Sharon School Committee. “We’ve had students out of school since March 12, and that is quite scary.”

Lawrence teachers say they are reviewing the Andover decision, but hope it doesn’t come to litigation. “We’re here to say what is right for members and for our children,” said Beth Kontos, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

Beth Germano

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