If, how and when we safely return to school is the topic at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Last week, I recorded a video message making clear that if medical experts say it’s not safe for us to return to buildings to teach students face-to-face, then we can’t — and we won’t.
This weekend, the MEA Board of Directors approved a document outlining MEA’s Five Standards That Must Be Met for a Safe Return to School. This document reiterates our commitment to employee voices in local decision making, collective bargaining, employer-provided protective equipment, equitable access to education, fighting outsourcing of school employee work, and the need for adequate funding to prevent cuts and pay for increased COVID-19 costs.
In addition, this board-approved document also clearly states that to safely re-open for in-person instruction, MEA believes the “strongly recommended” practices and procedures outlined for Phase 4 in the MI Safe Schools Roadmap must be in place. Safety protocols must include: social distancing in all classrooms, shared spaces, and buses; masks worn by all students and employees unless otherwise medically advised; and consistent and thorough health screenings for all students and staff.
Decisions about school reopening are locally driven – and MEA’s strength comes from our members and more than 1,100 locals that represent them. If a local makes a decision with their employer to reopen in person, that’s their right – and MEA is here to support that.
But, if a district, college or university isn’t bargaining in good faith, MEA is here to support those locals, too, and fight to ensure the voices of our members are heard. If – after going through proper channels within our union – a local makes the difficult decision to withhold services because it isn’t safe to return, MEA will be there with those members, demanding that employers make the health and safety of our students and our members the top priority.
Friday 9 a.m. Teletownhall with Dr. Khaldun
As the Five Standards document asserts, we believe health and safety policies must rely on sound science and guidance from medical professionals. That’s why I’m pleased to announce that MEA and AFT Michigan members are invited to attend a telephone town hall on Friday, July 31, at 9 a.m. with Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan’s chief medical executive, and other medical experts to discuss health and safety matters regarding returning to school.
If we have a landline phone number for you, you’ll be getting a call inviting you to join us for that conversation. If you only have a cell phone or you want to make sure we’ve got the right number, please RSVP for Friday’s call no later than 6 p.m. tomorrow. We will also be recording the conversation with “Dr. K” and the other assembled experts about the latest information they can share.
New Guidance and Resources from Governor’s Office
Today, the governor’s office put out an official FAQ regarding Executive Order 142, which covered the Roadmap and the need for local COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plans. In particular, today’s information clarified that districts may not designate their plans as “pilot projects,” a common trick used to avoid bargaining (further reinforcing collective bargaining requirements laid out in last week’s MEA/AFT Michigan/MASA/MASB joint statement). The FAQ also provided more guidance around mask requirements, particularly stating that parents cannot “opt out” their child from facial covering requirements, nor can cohorting of students be used to skirt the mask requirements for older grades.
The Governor’s office also asked us to share two other new resources with our members:
- Updated CDC Guidance: Last Friday, the CDC issued new guidance for schools. While it’s unfortunate that the messaging became politicized when it was released, the actual tools and resources from the CDC contain useful information (which has been reviewed by Dr. Khaldun).
- MI-OSHA Guidance for PK-12 Schools: The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration developed a toolkit on Workplace Safety specifically designed for K-12 schools.
In the end, MEA’s top priority is the health and safety of our members and the students you serve. We will continue to support our locals – using every tool in our toolbox, including legal action, if necessary – to ensure your voices are heard in local decisions.