Randi Weingarten, the head of the nation’s second-largest teachers union, the American Federation of Teachers, claimed, Thursday, that she plans to call for a “full reopening of schools” beginning in the fall.
Teachers’ unions have been instrumental in keeping students out of classrooms, even as COVID-19 infections decreased across the country, and medical experts noted that in-school learning posed little risk of spreading the novel coronavirus, but Weingarten now says that schools must return to full-time, in-classroom instruction, per the New York Times.
“Randi Weingarten, president of the nation’s second-largest teachers’ union, called on Thursday for a full reopening of the nation’s schools for the next academic year, saying: ‘There is no doubt: Schools must be open. In person. Five days a week,’” the Times reported Thursday.
“Conditions have changed. We can and we must reopen schools in the fall for in-person teaching, learning, and support. And we must keep them open fully and safely five days a week,” Weingarten added, per Fox News.
“Her remarks come with about half of the nation’s public schools not offering five days per week of in-person learning to all students and with many families uncertain about whether they will have the option for a more traditional schedule in the fall,” the outlet continued, acknowledging teachers unions have been “that one key barrier to a broader opening this school year.”
“It’s not risk-free,” Weingarten told the Times, but then said that “the health risks can be managed through a range of practices — some of them relatively simple, such as masking and handwashing, and some of them more difficult to achieve at scale, such as decreasing class sizes to maintain distance and procuring additional spaces to meet outside cramped school buildings.”
“School is where children learn. It’s where they work together and play together,” she added. “It’s where they form relationships and learn resilience. It’s where many children who otherwise might go hungry eat breakfast and lunch.”
“Given current circumstances, nothing should stand in the way of fully reopening our public schools this fall and keeping them open. Of course, it’s not risk-free,” she added. “We can manage the threat by encouraging people to get vaccines and following guidance from the CDC that prevents the spread of the disease.”
Teachers’ unions have been using the pandemic to push for their typical priorities, smaller class sizes, included — a proposal that would inevitably require districts to hire more teachers.
Weingarten did give unions a way out, however.
“We don’t actually know — will adults need a booster shot because of the variants? How many kids will get the vaccines? When will vaccines be available for kids under 12? There are all of these questions,” Weingarten added in an interview, “But these questions can’t stop us from reopening fully.”
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