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With the start of the new school year on the horizon, the leadership of the largest teachers union in Massachusetts voted Monday night to support a vaccine mandate for school employees and eligible students statewide.

The motion, approved by the Massachusetts Teachers Association’s board of directors by a 46 to 4 vote, states the group supports required vaccinations or regular COVID-19 testing for those who are not vaccinated. Districts should negotiate the specifics of vaccine requirements with their local teachers unions, the group said.

“We must do everything in our power to protect students, educators, public health, and all of our communities — including communities of color, which, because of structural racism, have been hit the hardest by the coronavirus pandemic,” union President Merrie Najimy said in a statement Tuesday.

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“By taking this step, the MTA continues to play a lead role in advocating for what we all want the most: to be in our classrooms with our students in a safe environment,” she added. “Requiring vaccines for educators and eligible students is a reasonable measure to take for the common good.”

Earlier this month, the union’s board voted to urge Governor Charlie Baker and state education leaders to enact a mask mandate for teachers and students in schools buildings, regardless of vaccination status. The union continued its push for universal masking on Tuesday and criticized the state for not having “contingency plans for what will happen if the pandemic resurgence continues or worsens.”

Najimy also emphasized that vaccinations must continue to be paired with other COVID-19 protocols, including upgraded ventilation systems, access to face coverings, rapid and consistent COVID-19 testing, and social distancing.

“It’s as if Governor Baker, Education Secretary James Peyser, and Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley have learned nothing over the past year and a half,” Najimy said. “MTA members have spent that time calling for well-informed and researched approaches to make in-person learning as safe as possible. Now more than ever, the governor has an obligation to work with educators and other community members to develop responsible plans to avoid the chaos that did so much damage to all of us last year.”

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Read the full motion passed by the MTA:


Felicia Gans can be reached at felicia.gans@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @FeliciaGans.