AFT Massachusetts President Calls on DESE to Test, Trace and Track COVID-19 Outbreaks in Schools

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It was disturbing to learn this week that DESE has no formal process to track or report coronavirus outbreaks in our schools, even as multiple outbreaks have occurred in Massachusetts summer school programs over the past few months. Likewise, within a week of their recent reopening, schools in Indiana, Georgia, and Mississippi reported instances of students, educators, or staff who tested positive after returning to school.

Massachusetts will not be able to safely return to in-person learning without effective disease testing, tracing, and tracking in our schools.

AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos sent a letter to urge DESE to take the following steps to ensure that Massachusetts is able to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks when we return to the classroom.

  • Testing: provide on-site testing for all students, educators, and staff if/when the schools are open for in-person learning
  • Tracing: establish systems for thorough contact tracing when positive cases are identified in a school setting, including effective multilingual outreach to the families of students who may have been exposed to COVID-19
  • Tracking: establish a formal tracking and reporting mechanism for positive cases among students, educators, and staff including prompt and regular public disclosure (while of course protecting the private health information of individuals)

School districts, especially the long-underfunded urban districts that are located in COVID-19 hotspots, cannot do this on their own. Only by providing the necessary public health infrastructure at the state level will local districts be able to formulate safe plans to return to in-person learning.