An Open Letter to The Community & Mayor Wu from Boston Public School Teachers (Within Boston First Responders United)
“Ripping teachers away from children is the real crisis” (or Where is the crisis?)
At a time when Boston Public School students are most vulnerable and in most need of stability and support, Mayor Wu’s mandate to fire unvaccinated Boston Public School staff is reckless and unsafe.
Weekly testing continues to be an option in neighboring cities including Cambridge Public School staff who agreed to daily testing as an alternative to forced vaccination.
Yet in Boston that choice was taken away, with medical and religious exemptions being denied daily.
Teachers come to school buildings everyday to teach and support students. They taught remotely, they taught in-person during uncertain times, they brought food and school supplies to families during the height of the pandemic, they video called after hours and weekends with families in crises during remote learning using their own personal time, and they still continue to put the needs of our students first.
They were given a choice upon returning to school this year, under acting Mayor Janey, to get the Covid-19 vaccine or test weekly, an option many feel is safest given that vaccinated people continue to transmit the virus. This choice provided all educators the opportunity to continue supporting students, as well as address any health concerns surrounding Covid-19.
This agreement has not only been effective, but in Governor Baker’s own words, “The data from over a year’s worth of pool testing shows that school is an extremely safe place for educators and kids.”
Now, Mayor Wu has mandated that all City of Boston employees either vaccinate or face unpaid leave, and consequently, termination.
She has taken away choice, and instead imposed a mandate that will have dire effects on our schools, our students, and our communities.
There are hundreds of unvaccinated educators in Boston Public Schools. If terminated, this number will damage thousands of students both academically and emotionally, not to mention staff that will have to take on more students than they are able to effectively teach under state law.
After tireless efforts to close the achievement gap and provide students with “a district of all high-performing schools, eliminating both the opportunity gap and the achievement gap” (Boston School Committee’s Strategic Vision for the Boston Public Schools, 2015) implementation of this mandate would further harm students who were already deprived of vital in-person learning time for 1.5 years.
Children will suffer the loss of their home room teachers and the stability they so desperately need after suffering the emotional and academic damaging effects of remote learning . Students with disabilities will lose special educators, occupational and physical therapists, translating to neglected IEP and 504 needs.
As a result of this sweeping mandate all students will suffer the loss of highly qualified educators. No one wants to imagine a student with severe special needs going without critically needed educational support or a student who is in need of guidance as they navigate college and workforce options.
All Boston Public School students have felt the isolating effects of Covid-19. How can Mayor Wu justify inflicting further devastating limitations on students that have tirelessly worked to overcome roadblocks they have faced thus far?
With a crippling lack of substitutes, vacant classrooms could soon become the norm across the district.
Stakeholders and City Councilors are alarmingly silent in the face of the crises our children face. The very people who vowed to protect our children and valiantly fight to close the achievement gap in our schools have said nothing about the unjust effects this mandate will have on our children.
The lasting and worsening ramifications of Mayor Wu’s decision will be profoundly detrimental to Boston children, the families still reeling from the crushing effects of shutdown, and our community at large. These damages will be felt long after the effects of the Covid-19 have come and gone.
We have a responsibility to ensure the educational wellbeing of our children.
If Mayor Wu decides to fire hundreds of Boston Public School staff, she will need to answer to this as her legacy. The debilitating effects of classroom instability, the ever widening achievement gap, and the worsening mental health epidemic among children are very steep prices to pay. If there is a real crisis – this is it.