AFT President Endorses Full Return to In-Person Learning This Fall

With vaccines widely available, the president of teacher’s union says it’s time for students to get back to school.

AFT President Endorses Full Return to In-Person Learning This Fall

The president of the American Federation of Teachers now endorses a full return to in-classroom learning this fall.

“Conditions have changed,” said Randi Weingarten, in a prepared statement to The Associated Press.

She attributes this change to the wide availability of COVID-19 vaccines and continued federal funding to help schools purchase or update ventilation systems and implement other safety measures to ensure risk-free learning environments.

The call to reopen this fall has been a long time coming, as many teachers throughout the pandemic refused to go back into classrooms due to health concerns. According to federal data, in March, 54% of public elementary and middle schools offered five days a week of in-person teaching. But now that 89% of its 1.7 million members have been fully vaccinated or plan to be, attitudes seem to have shifted, and the union will launch a $5 million campaign to help springboard the effort to get back into classrooms this fall.

The campaign will promote to families, teachers and communities the positive outcomes of a widespread reopening of schools. To help spread the message, Weingarten suggested that teachers and parents should band together to tackle lingering safety issues and concerns.

A local union in Pittsburgh, for example, plans to go door to door to inform people about the safety policies adopted by its schools, while other local groups are helping run vaccination clinics for students and families.

Despite the push to fully reopen by this fall, schools will still need to follow safety guidelines, Weingarten suggests. She said staff and students are encouraged to continue to wear masks and practice social distancing, and contact tracing should continue, as recommended by the CDC.

“It’s not risk free. But we can manage the threat by encouraging people to get vaccines and following guidance from the CDC.”

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