Connect with us

Local News

‘Schools must be open. In person. Five days a week,’ national teachers union leader says



DALLAS, TX – The presidents of two of the nation’s largest teachers unions called for the full reopening of schools in the fall — in-person and five days a week.

Thursday morning Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said the widespread availability of vaccines is a “game-changer.” Health authorities this week authorized the use of the Pfizer vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds.

Teachers were prioritized in the federal vaccine rollout, and AFT data shows 89% of members are fully vaccinated or want to be, Weingarten said.

She also noted in a virtual speech that she’s visited schools in many states — including Texas — that have reopened.

“Conditions have changed,” she said in her remarks. “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.”

The president of the National Education Association later issued a statement also supporting reopening, adding that educators will continue doing what is needed to ensure schools have what they need to operate safely.

The teacher groups’ statements came the same day that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that those fully vaccinated against COVID-19 would no longer need to wear face masks or social distance during gatherings.

But Weingarten noted in her speech that a full return is “not risk free.” She said the threat can be managed by encouraging more people to be vaccinated and following CDC guidance, including masks, distancing, improved ventilation and continued COVID-19 testing. Her comments were made prior to the CDC’s update.

The latest federal data found that as of March, 54% of public elementary and middle schools were offering five days a week of in-person instruction to all students.

Texas schools mostly reopened in the fall and, as of January, roughly 56% of public school students returned to on-campus learning, according to state data.

Other states have been slower to return to in-person learning, and teachers unions have been blamed in some places for slowing the process with specific safety demands.

Some Texas school districts have begun dropping their mask mandates.

Meanwhile, several districts in Texas expect to continue offering some form of virtual learning next year. The Legislature must still finalize regulations governing how such classes will be carried out and funded. Lawmakers are pushing up against a May 31 deadline.