Teachers Union Highlights In-Person Importance This Semester

HYANNIS – The fall school semester is kicking off, and the nation’s largest teachers union says they are ready to return to in-person despite the Delta variant of the coronavirus leading to mask mandates statewide. 

“We believe that public schools need to be reopened this year and they need to stay open. It’s where kids do the best. It’s where they form relationships. It’s where they learn resilience. But it has to be safe,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.

Her organization has pushed $5 million of grants out to their membership in order to help assist in the back to school efforts, including vaccine clinics and informational outreach on how to make schools as safe as possible. 

Weingarten is promoting safe school reopening with a Back to School Tour currently on the west coast in California, but her outreach efforts have also taken her throughout Bay State over the course of the pandemic.

This fall semester, Massachusetts educational officials have imposed a mask mandate in schools until at least October 1, after which districts with at least 80 percent of their students and staff vaccinated can choose to forgo the face covering requirement. 

Secretary of Education James Peyser said that the mandate will provide incentive for schools to help get their faculties and student bodies vaccinated as soon as possible. 

On average, Massachusetts school districts are about 65 percent vaccinated, according to the state. 

Weingarten said that she is pleased by the mandate.

“It makes sense to have a time limit on universal masking. I’m not a doctor, I don’t know if October 1 is the right time, but it sends a message to parents that this is not forever,” said Weingarten.

She said that masking up is primarily a precaution against the Delta variant of COVID, and that vaccination still remains the strongest line of defense against the virus as a whole. 

“Teachers want what kids need. We’re doing everything in our power, in still very uncertain times, to have public schooling have in-person and keep things safe,” said Weingarten. 

About Grady Culhane

Grady Culhane is a Cape Cod native from Eastham. He studied media communications at Cape Cod Community College and joined the CapeCod.com News Center in 2019.

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