The largest teachers union in Massachusetts is calling on Governor Charlie Baker and other state leaders to require masks inside school buildings regardless of vaccination status, following a federal recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In a unanimous vote Sunday, the Massachusetts Teachers Association’s board of directors urged Baker to enact a mask mandate for all public school students and staff members from pre-kindergarten through higher education. The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced Friday they’ll recommend all unvaccinated students and staffers to wear masks indoors this fall, but vaccinated students can go without.
Baker emphasized school districts can make adjustments to the mask-wearing guideline to “do what’s right for their specific school districts.” Boston’s Acting Mayor Kim Janey has already said, for example, that students in the city’s public schools will be required to wear masks this fall.
While some applauded the decision to allow vaccinated children to make their own mask-wearing decisions, others have lobbied Baker to follow recommendations from both the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics, which calls for everyone inside school buildings to be masked.
“The threats from the Delta variant of COVID are becoming more severe, and cases are on the rise as school approaches,” read the board’s proposal. “We have nowhere near universal vaccination, and children under 12 are not vaccinated at all. It’s time to rescind the lifting of all restrictions and safety mitigations for our schools in order to stem the spread of this variant and help to prevent the development of even more variants.”
In addition to a mandatory mask requirement, the board is calling on Baker to increase efforts to vaccinate eligible students, provide free and regular access to in-school COVID-19 testing, and provide funding to continue repairing ventilation systems in public schools and colleges.
Multiple safety measures, including but not limited to mask-wearing and social distancing, should be in place “for the foreseeable future,” the board wrote.
“The MTA board took action on this health and safety matter as COVID-19 cases rise, particularly with the spread of the delta variant and its link to breakthrough infections of fully vaccinated individuals,” the union wrote in a statement Monday.