The 23,000-member AFT Massachusetts sent a letter to Gov. Charlie Baker expressing ‘deep disappointment’ with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s new guidance for school reopening, especially the failure to follow CDC guidelines and mandate masks for students under the age of 12, who are not currently eligible for COVID-19 vaccines.
“The release of this guidance was an opportunity to lead on health and safety, but your Administration missed the mark by issuing weak and ineffective guidance on masking,” reads the letter from AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “You still have time to change course before the school year begins, and we urge you to do so by immediately instituting a universal masking mandate for all pre-K-12 public schools.”
“We find it bewildering that your Administration would essentially punt on a matter as pressing and consequential as masking for children under the age of 12. A mere recommendation to mask is weak and irresponsible, jeopardizing the health and safety of young children who cannot protect themselves with a vaccine,” the letter continues. “Until the vaccine is available for children under 12, we have an ethical obligation to protect them by mandating the most effective measure at our disposal: universal masking in schools for Grades pre-K-6.”
The letter acknowledges that “the discussion is arguably more nuanced for Grades 7 and up, due to the availability of the vaccine for those 12 and older, but the evidence suggests that a universal mask mandate is still the best policy for protecting students, families, and staff alike…Our goal is to keep schools open for in-person learning. Since masking is a proven mitigation measure, a universal masking mandate increases the likelihood of slowing virus spread and keeping schools open. For these reasons and others, we support a statewide universal mask mandate at all grades and consider it a “must” for pre-K-6 on ethical grounds.”