Over the past year, MassCOSH has worked closely with teachers’ unions to advocate for the health and safety protections needed to ensure a safe return to in-person learning. Vaccination is critical, but just one component of a comprehensive workplace infectious disease protection program. In order to protect school workers and students from exposure to SARS-CoV-2, there must also be adequate ventilation and filtration, personal protective equipment including N95 respirators for school staff, pool testing to identify asymptomatic cases, contact tracing, and cleaning and disinfection with safe cleaning products.
Earlier this month, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education mandated that all schools re-open for in-person learning at full capacity by April 5. This rushed and arbitrary date is poorly timed with the Commonwealth’s inadequate vaccine rollout and does not account for the realities that school districts must face to safely prepare for a full in-person return. Under the current schedule, students will be crowding back into our school buildings, bringing them to full capacity before most educators will have had the chance to be vaccinated, and before districts are able to ensure that recommended safety protections are in place.
The Massachusetts Justice Alliance is calling for a delay in the schedule to at least April 26, after April vacation, so that school communities have time to successfully implement this mandatory transition and more school employees have the chance to be vaccinated.