The president of the American Federation of Teachers said the U.S. is ready to return to in-person instruction in the fall.
In a lengthy address posted online, AFT President Randi Weingarten said the timing is right now that vaccines are readily available and federal funds are helping to address other issues that have kept school buildings closed over the past year.
“There’s no doubt schools must be open, in person, five days a week, with the space and facilities to do so,” she said. “We know that’s how kids learn best and that prolonged isolation is harmful.”
Many teachers unions throughout the county have resisted calls to return to classrooms amid concerns of questionable ventilation systems in school buildings and the availability of vaccinations.
Weingarten said the vaccines have been the game-changer, with AFT data showing that 89% of its 1.7 million members are fully vaccinated or want to be.
“I hear it in educators’ voices and see it in our polling results,” she said. “The fear that they will bring the virus home decreases the moment educators get the shots.”
While embracing a return to in-person learning in the fall, she believes mask-wearing, social distancing, contact tracing and other measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should still be followed.