“This is huge news in our ongoing effort to keep our kids safe from COVID-19. For nearly two years, parents have been living in fear, worried that their child could get sick at school, day care, or in daily life, but now they finally have FDA-approved protection to add to the long list of vaccines we use to keep our children protected from transmissible diseases.
“Vaccines remain our best defense to protect people and prevent the spread of this virus, and educators, school staff and healthcare professionals are eager to work together with parents to help get America’s kids vaccinated in the places they trust, including public schools and community centers.”
Setting the record straight on dangerous misinformation campaigns fueling skepticism and hesitance around the COVID-19 vaccines.
Dangerous misinformation campaigns are fueling skepticism and hesitance around the COVID-19 vaccines, a situation that both prevents achievement of herd immunity and increases the possibility that new variants will be deadly to even the vaccinated. The truth is that 99.5 percent of all COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths happening now are among the unvaccinated. As vaccination numbers lag and COVID-19 infections surge in many communities, it is imperative that AFT members have the most accurate and up-to-date information about the vaccines. The "COVID-19 Myth-busting Factsheet" was composed by the AFT and is intended to set the record straight about some myths and misconceptions.
“As we have consistently stated, educators want students back in schools,” said Boston Teachers Union President Jessica Tang. “There are clear steps that can be taken to make a full return to classroom buildings as safe as possible. We’re asking that the state simply take those steps in order to bring students back in the safest and most instructionally sound manner possible.”
“Our students are our number one priority, always,” echoed Beth Kontos, President of the American Federation of Teachers of Massachusetts. “Teacher unions are made up of teachers — many of whom are parents ourselves. We are advocating for the state and for all districts to embrace and invest in key safety measures like improving school building air quality, providing adequate PPE to educators and students, and taking other common sense steps to preserve the public health and to save lives.”
On February 12, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released two resources for schools: Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools through Phased Mitigation and The Science Brief: Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in K-12Schools that add to CDC’s existing guidance for K-12 schools in opening for in-person instruction and remaining open.
AFT notes the CDC has identified the importance of layered mitigation, including compulsory masking, 6 feet of physical distancing, handwashing, cleaning and ventilation, diagnostic testing and contact tracing. It reinforces vaccine priority for teachers and school staff. Crucially, it emphasizes accommodations for educators with pre-existing conditions and those taking care of others at risk.
In a letter sent to state Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders today, Massachusetts’ two statewide teachers unions, along with the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, and other labor organizations, asked the state to support a pilot program of a rapid vaccination plan for school employees in 10 to 20 high-need school districts this month.
“My colleagues and I are reporting for in-person teaching with young students, who can't always mask up and distance properly,” said Susan Buckley, an instructional paraprofessional at the Beachmont School and AFT member in Revere, one of the cities in the proposed pilot program. “It would give me a great deal of confidence to know that the staff has been vaccinated and add that extra layer of protection for my students and all the families of the Revere Public School community, both in school and back at home.”
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?
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.
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.
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, 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.”