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Teachers union leader calls for ‘fully reopening’ schools this fall

Published: (Updated: ) in USA news by .

Randi Weingarten is promising a campaign that resembles a “get out the vote” effort, but for school reopening.

Nothing should stop public schools from fully reopening this fall, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten will declare this morning in a speech that will also set out details of a $5 million union outreach campaign to coax families back to in-person classes.

"Given current circumstances, nothing should stand in the way of fully reopening our public schools this fall and keeping them open," Weingarten is expected to say in an address scheduled for Thursday morning.

"Public health experts caution that, unless many more people get vaccinated, we will not reach herd immunity against COVID," Weingarten said of returning to classes in a draft version of the address. "But we can manage the threat by encouraging people to get vaccines and following guidance from the CDC to prevent the spread of disease — which currently includes the layered mitigation of masking and distancing, ventilation and sanitizing, handwashing, and COVID testing and contact tracing that help prevent outbreaks and minimize quarantines."

Outreach campaign: Weingarten is promising a campaign that resembles a "get out the vote" effort, but for school reopening.

She's expected to note local unions, such as the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, will go door to door to visit students’ homes and encourage families to send their children back for in-person learning, and cite Covid-19 vaccination events in Los Angeles and Chicago.

The union released new polling results Wednesday that concluded 73 percent of parents — but only 59 percent of Black parents — said they are comfortable with in-person learning for their child this fall. By contrast, 94 percent of parents (and 87 percent of Black parents) said they’d be comfortable with in-person learning this fall if schools adopt safety measures such as mask-wearing and physical distancing requirements and make Covid-19 vaccines available at school buildings.

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"These mitigation measures are vital," Weingarten is expected to say. "So is collaboration with parents to create trust and transparency."

Looking ahead: Weingarten will also use her speech to continue union calls for policy initiatives such as smaller class sizes, bolstered school staffing and overhauled approaches to standardized testing.

"As much as we want to feel 'normal' again, we can do better than the old 'normal,'" Weingarten is expected to say.

"We don’t have to accept vast inequality, chronic underfunding and narrow test-based accountability systems. We have a rare opportunity to reimagine public schooling in America and to pursue bold initiatives that will help all our kids thrive."

Source: Politics, Policy, Political News Top Stories

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