Thank you to the close to 2,500 members who joined us at our Emergency Town Hall yesterday evening. We shared our plan to fight for what we actually need to best serve our students and to keep everyone safe. We also heard your concerns loud and clear. Unlike the district, we are honoring the MOA language that we mutually agreed to, but we will do whatever it takes to help set the district on the right path again.
For those of you who were not able to join us, please know that we have taken the following steps:
1) We are seeking injunctive relief regarding the BPS and city’s decision not to comply with the MOA language which requires BPS to transition to full remote learning as a result of the 4.1% COVID-19 positivity rate. We will be holding a press conference later today to discuss the injunction and its implications.
2) We released a press statement yesterday affirming that in-person work is now optional under the terms of our MOA, and due to the increasing hazard presented by rising COVID-19 rates which have surpassed 4% citywide, the threshold at which all learning was supposed to go remote.
3) BTU will continue to comply with the language in the MOA that allows for an option to teach remotely today and tomorrow and beyond – and will support any educators that may face undue repercussions as a result of exercising their right to work safely and remotely now that they citywide rate is above 4%, and is much higher in many Boston neighborhoods.
4) We have asked our members to reach out to the mayor (call 311), as well as the superintendent and school committee chair, to share your concerns about what is really happening in our schools.
We continue to recognize the importance of in-person instruction for many of our high needs students. We are aligned with the parents who want a plan from BPS for the safest, highest quality, in-person services possible for high needs students. And we strongly support our educators, who are also parents and often parents of high needs students, as well, to do what is best and safest for their families.
In order to best achieve the goal of providing the best possible instruction for all students, BPS must work with us to create a scheduling plan that ensures appropriate staffing for high quality instruction in buildings that are safe, without sending in thousands of non-essential staff whose presence unnecessarily increases the risk of COVID-19 transmission among students, educators, and the public at-large.
We strongly object to the superintendent’s message yesterday which threatened disciplinary action towards members who exercise their rights in the MOA agreement that the city and district negotiated and signed on to. It is our belief that such actions, if taken, would be an illegal violation of the MOA agreement.
Remember, our MOA language expressly states:
“If the citywide COVID-19 positivity rate rises above 4% citywide, BPS will transition to full remote learning for all students, and BTU bargaining unit members will have the option to be remote as well.”
The superintendent’s disingenuous interpretation of the MOA is simply wrong.We feel that the superintendent’s threats of discipline constitute an effort to intimidate educators – and that those efforts are at odds with our agreement, and highly inappropriate at a time during which positivity rates are as high as 8% in some of our Boston neighborhoods and when we have confirmed positive cases in our schools. We are also alarmed that the district would direct teachers who are teaching remotely to log off while they are safely providing instruction to students.We stand with our educators and with the students whose safety we are advocating for in the face of these anti-worker threats that seek to perpetuate the presence of non-essential staff in buildings that may not be safe.
The district has not provided sufficient evidence to verify that some of the buildings people are being asked to return to have sufficient air ventilation and air quality, particularly in light of the CDC’s latest guidance emphasizing the potential of aerosol transmission. If buildings are not safe for educators, we don’t think they are safe for students either, particularly for our highest needs students.
We have learned that many parents were unaware that there was no comprehensive plan on the part of BPS to ensure appropriate in-person staffing.Educators are being instructed to report to buildings even if their students aren’t going to be there. It doesn’t make sense. Combined with challenges around rapid COVID testing availability, this is resulting in schools with just a handful of students, but dozens of adults unnecessarily in the buildings risking the chance of spreading the virus to students and adults alike.
In-person students should have teachers who can focus on their in-person services while others are focused on remote students. We will keep fighting for what is best for our students, families and educators both for their academic needs and also for their health and safety.
As always, we will be in touch with important updates as they develop.