A new coalition of educators, school nurses and other support staff called Monday for schools across the state to postpone any in-person learning and adopt a phased approach until a range of potential COVID-19 safety issues are addressed.
The Coalition to Safely Reopen Schools — a group that has the backing of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the Massachusetts Nurses Association, the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts and other labor groups — outlined 16 specific concerns in a lengthy position statement it offered to guide a return to K-12 education.
Their priorities include ensuring that all staff and students have access to personal protective equipment, requiring all schools to enforce 6 feet of social distancing rather than 3 feet, and increasing access to rapid testing.
"This process represents one of the most consequential decisions our communities and our state will make as our state and nation construe to grapple with a pandemic that is still surging across the nation, showing signs of a second wave in our state, with the threat of the flu season looming," Patty Comeau, who works as a Methuen school nurse and is a member of both the Massachusetts Nurses Association and the coalition, said in a press release.
"In confronting this challenge a safe, scientifically guided, well planned, adequately funded and appropriately resourced process must be the priority for all involved, as the stakes couldn’t be higher and the outcome of our decisions truly have life and death consequences," Comeau continued.
Several of the groups that endorsed the coalition have independently argued against returning to face-to-face instruction in the fall. The coalition concluded that it does not believe schools can safely resume face-to-face instruction at current levels of testing, staff and PPE access, nor does it support staff conducting online classes from school buildings.
Plans for the start of the 2020-2021 academic year vary by district, but about 70% of schools are planning either a hybrid or fully in-person learning model, according to Gov. Charlie Baker.