We are writing this evening with important updates in regards to schools reopening. Since hearing from City of Boston Chief of Health and Human Services Marty Martinez on Monday that the BPHC approved plans for a February 1 reopening for all HIPP students, we have been working around the clock to get the information we previously requested about the status of the conditions agreed upon in our latest Jan. 10 agreement, and have redoubled our efforts with heightened urgency to confirm that all aspects of our previous agreements are in place before Monday.
On Tuesday, we sent this correspondence to the Superintendent, outlining the information that we were still in need of. It lists everything that was agreed to in our latest side letter, including, for example, the air ventilation reports of schools where testing has been conducted, a schedule for next week’s COVID-testing for staff in schools, verification that air purifiers are in rooms being used, etc.
On Wednesday, we learned that despite repeated assurances that the district “was doing everything the union had asked of them” – even before the January 10 side letter was signed – the district had not actually performed the agreed upon ventilation assessments in the additional 93 schools scheduled to reopen on February 1. We still have not received the results of the 28 schools they said were previously tested for the agreed upon Air Exchanges per Hour (ACH). Instead, the district sent a report of the CO2 readings of empty classrooms, which we have repeatedly explained are not the same as the recommended ventilation assessments from the Harvard School of Public Health. This is the letter we received from the superintendent’s office, as well as this schedule we received last Wednesday evening for future testing.
In response to this information, we sent an additional correspondence yesterday evening that raised concerns both about the misleading assurances in the letter to principals as well as the unacceptable timeline of 10 weeks to complete the ventilation assessments in the schools reopening on Monday. We have asked both for walkthroughs at sites today and tomorrow, as well as an expedited timeline of completing the ventilation assessments. The city and district have agreed to walkthroughs with BTU staff tomorrow and we have five scheduled. They have also agreed to additional weekly walkthroughs at schools in the next few weeks. We are still waiting for a response to the other requests.
This evening, we held a special meeting for Building Reps. We reviewed the agreements in place and shared a checklist that reps can use on Monday to ensure that the conditions agreed to have been implemented. While we understand that the ventilation assessments can take time for over 100 school buildings, we are extremely disappointed and shocked that the district had not been conducting them this whole time, especially in anticipation of the district’s February 1 goal for reopening. We are also still awaiting the COVID testing sites, hours, and protocol for all the educators returning on Monday and timeline for vaccinations.
We will continue to collect data from our Building Reps on Monday to see where the district may be failing to comply with the signed agreements, and we will continue to insist that the ventilation assessments be completed by March 1, 2021, NOT ten weeks later – which is unreasonable and unacceptable for the health and safety of our students and educators in person.
Our Executive Board will meet Monday night to review the data from the building walkthroughs, Building Rep Surveys, and concerns shared by individual BTU members and to determine next steps. Individual concerns can continue to be shared in the Google form. If the results of our surveys and data warrant an emergency BTU meeting, we will call one via another special bulletin.
We also continue to advocate for immediate vaccination access for educators – particularly those who are already in-person and are returning in-person on Monday. We met with Commissioner Riley and Commissioner Sudders this morning, and along with the MTA and AFT-MA leaders, impressed upon them the importance of vaccinations for a safe reopening. Both commissioners have agreed to meet again in an effort to facilitate better communication and implementation of vaccinations.
At this point in the week, we were truly hoping to share evidence that the district had fulfilled its obligations and kept its promises to our educators and families to keep everyone as safe as possible for the reopenings. We also hoped that by this point, we would have an update on a timeline for vaccinations, and hoped that the state would be able to confirm the prioritization of vaccinations for educators and staff in person. Unfortunately, the district does not yet appear to have complied with all of its agreements and the state has not yet taken steps to prioritize educators in person.
However, as always, we will not give up, and we will continue to fight for what is needed for Safety, Equity and Transparency, and we will continue to demand the information and assurances needed to verify that all possible mitigation measures, as determined by experts and scientists are, in fact, in place. If they are not quickly remedied, we will have no choice but to take further action. We will have more to share in our regular bulletin Tuesday morning.
Please know we hear everyone’s concerns and do not take any of them lightly. As always, please reach out to your field reps and BTU staff if you have any questions or immediate concerns that we can address. Please also remember that we are stronger and better together – we must lean on each other as we do what we have always done; show up for students, families and community and show up for each other, even if we can’t count on those we should be able to depend on to show up for us.
With deep gratitude, respect and solidarity to the incredibly hardworking and committed BTU educators of Boston,
President Tang and the BTU officers and staff