State Watch

Massachusetts denies teacher union’s request to keep schools closed for COVID-19 testing

Massachusetts officials have denied a teacher union’s request to keep schools closed for COVID-19 testing.

The Massachusetts Teachers Association made the request to close schools for COVID testing with the input from their environmental health and safety committee and public health experts, according to a report by the Associated Press.

But Massachusetts’ Executive Office of Education spokesperson Colleen Quinn told the AP that the department will not close schools on Monday. 

“The commissioner is not going to close schools Monday, and asks teachers to be patient as we work to get tests in their hands this weekend,” Quinn said in a statement. “It is disappointing that once again the MTA is trying to find a way to close schools, which we know is to the extreme detriment of our children.” 

Schools set to resume classes after a holiday break next week are doing so as the highly-contagious omicron variant of the coronavirus hits the United States hard. 

The nation has been breaking records for daily positive tests, though data suggests the omicron variant is not leading to serious cases of COVID-19 that end in hospitalization or death.

The leading teachers union in Massachusetts had argued it would be safer to keep schools closed as more is learned about the variant.

“To protect the public health and the safety of our communities, it is urgent to allow districts to use Jan. 3 for administering COVID-19 tests to school staff and analyzing the resulting data,” MTA union president Merrie Najimy said in a statement. 

Najimy acknowledged that delaying the start of school would pose a hardship for some families, but told the AP there would be no hesitation in the case of a storm. Najimy added that making Monday a COVID-19 test day will help school districts make staffing decisions and ensure that in-person learning continues. 

Massachusetts’ Department of Elementary and Secondary Education earlier this week said it purchased 200,000 COVID-19 rapid tests which will be disturbed across the state for faculty and staff testing, the AP noted.

Tags covid-19 children Massachusetts

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