The Hopkinton Teachers Association on Monday sent out a press release criticizing last week’s decision by the School Committee to approve a three-week mask-optional trial period for vaccinated individuals at Hopkinton High School.
Following is the text of the statement, emailed by HTA President Becky Abate.
“The Hopkinton Teachers Association is disappointed in the School Committee’s vote to end the use of masks in the high school. Although we all look forward to the day when unmasking is possible, the decision to do so now, with blatant disregard for Hopkinton’s own Board of Health Director’s recommendation, feels premature while vaccines and boosters are as of yet unavailable to all. Citing the mask policy as an ‘educational policy’ rather than one of health and safety, the School Committee made the decision to forgo mandatory negotiations with the District’s 350 educators. Hopkinton educators have risen to face incredible challenges and have succeeded in providing excellent instruction throughout the pandemic. It is disheartening that the School Committee as a whole did not take educators’ concerns more seriously and include them in the decision-making process.
“Of primary concern is the lack of vaccines for children under 12. Many of our high school students and staff come from homes with younger children who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated. It is expected that Emergency Use Approval of vaccines will soon be granted for children ages 5-11, and it seems more prudent to wait until this age group is fully vaccinated before changing the mask policy at the high school. Furthermore, HTA had also asked that the District provide time for educators who want a vaccine booster, especially those with health conditions that put them at greater risk for COVID complications, to receive that shot before changing this important health policy. With very little time between the School Committee’s decision to unmask and the start of the trial period, many teachers will not have the opportunity to receive these critical boosters. With the diminished Test and Stay program, access to boosters and juvenile vaccines are critical to keep unmasked students and staff safe.
“The use of masks has been proven to slow the spread of COVID-19. While the HTA foresees an appropriate time to ease mask regulations, the district should have sought input from educators before making this decision. Given the importance of this health and safety policy, the HTA agrees with the Massachusetts Teachers Association’s position that mask and vaccine policies must be bargained between educator unions and the district.”