The head of the second-largest teachers union in the United States is calling on a full return to five-day-a-week in-person learning at all schools in the fall, declaring that her organization was “all-in.”
In an address posted on social media, Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers said that with more and more Americans becoming eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, it is imperative that schools fully reopen for students and staff during the next academic year.
“Conditions have changed,” she said. "We can and we must reopen schools in the fall for in-person teaching, learning, and support. And keep them open. Fully and safely, five days a week.”
A new poll released by the American Federation of Teachers found that the majority of the country’s parents have joined teachers in their support for full school reopening in the fall.
According to a survey conducted by the union, 89 percent of its 1.7 million members have been fully vaccinated or plan to be by the time students return to the classroom.
“I’ve been in constant contact with parents’ groups and caregivers this year. If COVID has taught us anything, it’s how essential in-school learning is, and how vital the supports and resources are for returning,” Weingarten said.
“School is where kids work together and play together. And parents rely on schools, not only to educate their kids but also so they can work and live their lives.”
Weingarten said that the biggest obstacle now is to get certain communities vaccinated that may have been hesitant to get inoculated.
“The main task now,” she said, “is building trust and confidence among Black and brown families who have borne the brunt of COVID—to show, not tell, that schools are safe given the new variants, as long as we have a layered mitigation approach in place. And, as we emerge from this pandemic, we now have an opportunity now to reimagine education.”
In a separate statement, Becky Pringle, the National Education Association president echoed Weingarten’s remarks.
“NEA supports school buildings being open to students for in-person instruction in the fall,” she said.
“Educators will continue to lead in making sure each school has what it needs to fully reopen in a safe and just way, and to ensure the resources exist to meet the academic, social and emotional needs of all students.”
Weingarten noted that while she wants children back in the classroom, there are still certain precautions that should remain in place, such as social distancing and facial coverings.
“It’s not risk-free, but we can manage the threat by encouraging people to get vaccines and following guidance from the CDC,” Weingarten said.
“The United States will not be fully back until we are fully back in school. And my union is all in,” she added. “When I tell you we’re all in. … We’re all in.”
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