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Facebook Live Event: COVID-19 & Schools

What does the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines mean for our students, public schools and colleges?

Join infectious disease experts, public health professionals, community leaders and educators for an update on the pandemic and our public schools with a deep dive into the topic of vaccines. What is involved in getting the vaccines to educators in Massachusetts? What can educators do through their unions to shape local distribution plans? How and where will vaccines be distributed? Will the vaccines allow us to return to life as we knew it prior to the pandemic?

COVID-19 and Our Schools: A Facebook Live Community Conversation

Educators, parents, policymakers and others are invited to a Community Conversation with public health professionals, community leaders and educators. The conversation will be the first in a series of Facebook Live events about the impact of COVID-19 on our public schools and about finding a way forward. Participants will discuss the disparate impact of COVID-19 on students, schools and communities and will hear from public health professionals about systemic improvements needed for safe effective in-person learning.

This event is co-sponsored by the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, the Massachusetts Public Health Association and the Massachusetts Teachers Association.

Report a COVID-19 Case or Unsafe Working Conditions in Your School or Library

School employees and public librarians are doing what they always do: taking care of their students and communities. But no matter where you are in Massachusetts or what your district's reopening plan looks like, everyone deserves to feel safe at work.
This tracker is brought to you by the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts (AFT Massachusetts) & Massachusetts Teachers Association.
Help us hold local and state leaders accountable. Report a COVID-19 case or unsafe working conditions in your school or district with our easy-to-use tool.

Emergency Paid Sick Leave and Emergency Paid Family Leave Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Students, families, school staff and librarians are all doing amazing work this year under exceptionally challenging circumstances, facing hard choices at every turn.  The Families First Coronavirus Leave Act provides public health emergency leave and emergency paid sick leave to assist working families facing public health emergencies arising out of Coronavirus pandemic. AFT members are encouraged to review the emergency paid leave provisions below and to contact their local president with questions.  
As background, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA or Act) requires certain employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. The Department of Labor’s (Department) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) administers and enforces the new law’s paid leave requirements. These provisions will apply from the effective date through December 31, 2020.

AFT Massachusetts Launches COVID-19 Bill of Rights Campaign -- Statewide Drive Outlines Ten Principles for Safe and Effective Schools

AFT Massachusetts, with the unanimous backing of its executive board, has launched a campaign to promote safe and effective schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. The cornerstone of the campaign is a “Bill of Rights” for students, families, educators, and school staff, outlining 10 key principles for school safety and success. 
“Students, families, educators, and school staff are all doing amazing work this school year under exceptionally challenging circumstances, facing hard choices at every turn,” said Beth Kontos, president of AFT Massachusetts. “This bill of rights is designed to unite stakeholders around shared values and principles, bringing us together in a spirit of collaboration at a time when it is easy to become divided. Our hope is that local communities use the bill of rights as a launching pad for the deeper conversations and joint problem solving that must occur locally.”

AFT Massachusetts Responds to DESE Guidelines Calling For Educators To Teach From Unsafe Classrooms

“These guidelines defy common sense, and if implemented, would put educators and our communities at risk unnecessarily. If a local community has determined that it is unsafe for students to return to their classrooms due to high levels of COVID-19 transmission, inadequate building ventilation, or other health and safety concerns, it is certainly not safe for educators – or their own children – to return to the same classrooms to teach.
“Many districts across the state are beginning school remotely and using that time to upgrade building ventilation systems, reconfigure classrooms, and make other health and safety improvements that are necessary for students to return to the classroom. Forcing educators into the classroom prematurely will lengthen the time it takes to complete this critical work, further postponing the day when it is safe to resume safe in-person learning – our ultimate goal.

AFT Massachusetts Calls for Remote Start to School This Fall

"We miss our students terribly, and we all wish we could be back in the classroom with them. But it's become clear in the last few weeks that an in-person return to schools would unacceptably put the health and safety of our students, their families, and educators at risk. Parents, grandparents, and educators – maybe even students – would die," said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. "Community transmission of COVID-19 is on the rise again in Massachusetts, and lengthy delays in testing mean we won't know whether a sick student has the common cold or the deadly virus. In the schools AFT Massachusetts represents, especially in Boston and our Gateway Cities, years of chronic underfunding have left us with unsafe schools facilities: windows that don’t open, bathrooms that lack hot water and soap, ventilation systems that need upgrading, and nurses that treat sick students in converted closets with no room for social distancing. We've outlined a series of criteria that districts and the state must meet before it is safe for students and educators to return to the classroom, and it's clear that a period of remote learning will be necessary before those criteria are met. Now, we must focus on working with our local school teams to redesign remote learning so that it works for all students."
AFT Massachusetts outlined several public health and safety criteria that the union believes are necessary in order for in-person learning to resume.


Public School Reopening Proposals

In the same way that the state is taking a deliberate and careful approach to reopening the economy, the state must take an equally deliberate and careful approach to reopening our public schools. We are advocating for phased reopening that will consist of four separate phases.
Having spent approximately 25 percent of the 2019-2020 school year in crisis mode and learning remotely, all of our students — regardless of socioeconomic status or race — will be coming back with social, emotional and academic needs that we don’t yet fully understand. The nearly 390,000 students whose families are at 185 percent of the federal poverty level under the Student Opportunity Act will have even more acute trauma than they carried before the pandemic. The intersection of COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement compels us to examine and dismantle structures of racism and classism in society and in the institution of public education. Our schools cannot go back to the conditions under which they operated before COVID-19 or we will fail our students, families, educators and communities at the time of their greatest need. This moment provides us with an exciting opportunity to transform public education to adapt to our new reality.


AFT Members Focused on Food Security Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Like so many others across America, AFT Massachusetts teachers and school support staff are putting aside their own fears during the COVID-19 pandemic to help maintain a sense of normalcy for their students. One big area of focus for AFT Massachusetts members is food security.

“For many of our students, school is the one place where they can count on a full meal every day. With schools closed, AFT Massachusetts members across the state are working hard to make sure that our students, their families, and the whole community have the food they need,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “I’m incredibly proud of the work AFT Massachusetts members are doing to support all our students during this challenging time.”

Union Members Focused on Food Security Amid COVID-19 Pandemic in Lowell

Like so many others across America, AFT Massachusetts teachers and school support staff are putting aside their own fears during the COVID-19 pandemic to help maintain a sense of normalcy for their students. One big area of focus for AFT Massachusetts members is food security. Educators across the Commonwealth are working hard to ensure that students and their families have food during this crisis.

In Lowell, educators have focused on supporting the Merrimack Valley Food Bank (MVFB), which distributes food to 64,000 people each month through food pantries, shelters, schools, and senior centers.

United Teachers of Lowell President Paul Georges reiterated to all, “Many of our citizens have relied on food banks and the generosity and consideration of others in getting through this extremely difficult time. The neighbors at this event and all the Union volunteers are addressing a real need in our community to help alleviate some of the anxiety people deal with on a daily basis. I never cease to be amazed at the generosity of our members.”