The pandemic continues to make life hard for all of us and we are nowhere near “normal”. We learned many lessons over the last 18 months, but perhaps the hardest was that online learning exacerbated educational inequities and created unparalleled levels of learning loss - on top of straining educators more than ever. As school districts around the nation return to in-person learning creating fresh debate over masks and vaccine mandates.
As an organization that supports educators and advocates for their needs, we want to make our position on this clear:
We support and will advocate for state and district mask mandates in schools and vaccine mandates for all school employees, combined with environmental mitigators such as improved ventilation and social distancing, in schools. These policies are the best way to keep schools open for in-person learning and to increase student, family, and educator safety.
We were influenced by:
- The Delta variant continues to spread most rapidly amongst unvaccinated populations.
- Recent approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- Statistics that COVID-19 vaccines radically reduce breakthrough infections, hospitalizations and deaths in the vaccinated.
- Children under 12 cannot yet be vaccinated.
While we support enacting these mandates, we want to acknowledge the potential impact on educators:
Educators must be given adequate guidance for completing their vaccinations and allowances for possible side effects.
Educators from marginalized communities may be hesitant to get vaccinated due to centuries of medical racism. Districts and unions must engage with this hesitancy by providing proper education utilizing medical experts and as needed accommodations for medical and/or religious exemptions.
It is imperative that we get students back in school with teachers to continue to recover from unfinished learning. To do this effectively, it is important that educators create safe and healthy learning environments for all students. We have the information and tools to begin repairing the damage done by the last school year. We call on districts across the country to exhibit the will to put educator and student safety first.