Make Schools Safer
Make Schools Safer
Dear Governor Baker, and Massachusetts Mayors,
If, as you've claimed, you believe K-12 schools to be a vital service and you want all schools to resume full time, make sure schools are safer before fully re-opening them. The most important two tools to make schools safe are low community transmission rates, and vaccinating school staff. You already know this.
You have the tools to make schools much safer. You have not been using them.
Massachusetts is known for its health care, education, and biotech. With our incredible resources in all of these arenas, you can certainly do better on getting the vaccines we already have developed into the excellent staff you already have ready to provide education services to children. You can do better at showing that you value education, and that truly you value schools, rather than using them as a tool.
Your rush to re-open other things rather than to maintain the progress we had made last summer, has caused schools and their students to suffer since last fall. We haven't seen any list of specific virus rate metrics and a promise of how you will respond to them.
If schools are your priority, show it.
- Make schools the first thing to re-open and do not re-open any non essential services until target, low community rates of covid are reached. We are not there now. We can get there, but not by opening laser tag, skating rinks, restaurants at full capacity, and stadiums. It is essential to set metrics for each service to re-open and abide by them. As pretty much all public health experts have stated, schools are safe only when community rates of covid are low. If full in person school is important to you, show it. Stop opening services that spread covid and increase community transmission rates until the rates are much lower. The virus is still much too prevalent.
- Vaccinate educators. Stop demanding that educators all take on even more than they're already doing, while promising them almost no protection at all. If you want schools fully open, plan for educator, bus driver, and other school staff to get their vaccines in a convenient, easy- to access and equitable manner. Assure educators that you will not insist they take on more risk until after they've been vaccinated. Educators have been working hard to keep kids educated, safe, and to care for them emotionally, under nearly impossible circumstances, all year. Other school staff all have as well. Take care of them now. (Note, we are not asking for educators to moved ahead of other essential workers, just that they are assured that you understand that vaccinating them needs to happen before, not after, demanding more of them).
If we put schools first, that means we do whatever it takes to get the community rates low enough to keep the schools open. That means putting the schools before profits. It means, after a shut down, putting the schools at the top of the list of what to re-open, and only adding other services once we are able to keep schools open and keep community transmission low at the same time. Asking schools to keep their staff and students safe while you continue to move the re-opening forward in the face of still staggeringly high virus rates is unfair to all of them. No public health experts have advised opening schools with neither teacher vaccinations NOR low community transmission rates.
Make schools a priority. Keep them safe. I assure you that most educators will be thrilled to return to school once they all have access to vaccines and the community rates are under control.