In a pair of decrees Governor Charles D. Baker will allow teachers to sign up for vaccine on the troubled state website starting on March 11. Meanwhile, at his urging, his appointees to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to direct school districts to begin a full reopening on April 5.
Taking an opposite approach, President Joseph Biden wants every educator, school staff member, and child-care worker to receive at least one shot by the end of the month of March as a precursor to opening schools.
The president’s intent of accelerating the vaccination of educators, in anticipation of reopening school, is in direct conflict with the governor’s push to open school without regard to educators’ ability to obtain a vaccination. The result in Arlington is an anxious staff, hitting refresh on multiple websites, hoping to get at least one shot before the governor forces us to fully reopen our schools. We are now scrambling to cover classes and hire substitutes so teachers can travel across the state if they pounce on the first available appointment.
If the Massachusetts legislature acts quickly, they can take emergency action to extract us from the chaos on the horizon. It requires fast action, and a veto-proof majority, but emergency legislation with two simple provisions will put us on the path to a safer, saner reopening. Here are the two provisions:
* Prohibit the Board of Elementary Education, and the Commissioner, from requiring schools to re-open before April 26, 2021. While April 26 is three weeks later on the calendar, it’s only 10 school days after the April 5 opening date advanced by the Governor.
* Direct the state to provide vaccines for teachers directly to municipal health departments, pharmacies, or other health care providers who can provide on-site vaccinations. This will allow educators to focus on educating children, without the anxiety of missing teaching time while chasing after a shot
This can happen, but only with fast action by the legislature. If you think this two-step legislation for a safer, saner reopening makes sense, share the idea with your friends and contact your legislators!