State rejects Massachusetts Teachers Association’s call to close schools Monday for COVID-19 testing – CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — The Massachusetts Teachers Association wants schools to remain closed Monday so teachers and staff can use the day for COVID-19 testing, but the state said Friday that would not happen.

Most schools are still reopening as scheduled on Monday after the holidays. Due to the county’s testing shortage, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is sending a total of 227,000 rapid home test kits to each school district this weekend.

But, DESE said the tests, which were due to arrive on Thursday, were delayed by supply chain constraints. The state hopes teachers and staff can take one of the tests before returning to class on Monday.

Some communities, like Lexington and Burlington, have canceled classes for Monday. Others, like Newburyport and Watertown, will have shorter days for testing.

Cambridge has taken the decision to delay the return to school until Wednesday January 5. “We strongly encourage all families to do their part and have your student take a COVID test on Sunday or Monday,” Cambridge Public Schools said.

The MTA, the state’s largest teachers’ union, said Friday that teachers and staff needed more time.

“If you’re going to fire 200,000 employees from the school with 900,000 students, the chances of spreading the coronavirus are very high,” union president Merrie Najimy told WBZ-TV on Friday. “The only responsible thing to do right now is that when these kits are delivered over the weekend, as (the state) has promised, we have to use Monday as a district testing day.”

The state’s Executive Office of Education responded hours later, rejecting the proposal.

“The commissioner will not be closing schools on Monday and is asking teachers to be patient as we work to get tests into their hands this weekend,” spokeswoman Colleen Quinn said in a statement. “It is disappointing that once again the MTA is trying to find a way to close schools, which we know is extremely detrimental to our children.”

Rachel Kay in Watertown, one of the school districts preparing for a half day Monday, says school cancellation is a slippery slope. “I think it’s essential. If we miss a day for teachers to get tested, that’s not a huge amount, but I think it’s going to lead to more and more missed days, and I think online school is no substitute adequate.

Another teachers’ union, the American Federation of Massachusetts Teachers, went further, calling for a return to remote learning.

“State-provided testing tests all teachers and staff, and this should continue. It should then be followed by a period of remote learning until the current wave of infections subsides,” AFT said in a statement.

The MTA said Thursday that Gov. Charlie Baker and state Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley created a “logistical nightmare” with their testing plan by “putting the burden on school staff — especially nurses. schools, who are already overwhelmed by their abilities”.

“You just can’t distribute 200,000 tests to three sites across the state and expect them to go to 350-plus school districts,” Najimy told WBZ-TV.

Baker on Thursday defended the rapid test distribution plan as “the right thing to do.”

“There are many tools and capabilities available to keep children and adults safe at school, and we must do everything in our power to ensure children stay in school,” said the governor to reporters.

The MTA likened its Friday request to a snow day.

“We recognize that delaying the return of some students to school poses challenges for families. But if there was a blizzard on Sunday night, no one would question the wisdom of declaring Monday a snow day,” Najimy said in a statement Friday.

“With the spread of the omicron variant and COVID-19 positivity rates in the state exceeding 16% in the most recent seven-day average – and with Massachusetts now reporting more than one million coronavirus cases since the onset of the pandemic – it is fair to say that the health and safety risks we face from COVID-19 far exceed those presented by a Northeast.

Quinn responded, saying Massachusetts was one of the few states to provide rapid tests for its teachers.

“It is disappointing that once again the MTA is trying to find a way to close schools, which we know is to the extreme detriment of our children,” she said.

The state said rapid test kits should be distributed to school districts starting Saturday.

Andrew B. Reiter