Pennsylvania teacher’s union begs Dept. of Ed. to pause in-person learning or require mitigation

The American Federation of Teachers in Pennsylvania issued a statement Friday to the state’s Department of Education calling for enhanced COVID-19 mitigation protocols in all schools right away or a two week pause from in-person instruction.

“I believe that gives the districts time to secure the proper PPE to make sure the ventilation is okay and start setting up vaccination clinics and getting students vaccinated,” said AFT president Arthur Steinburg. “Everyone is fully aware that in person learning is the best for kids, educators and society as a whole however, it has to be done in safe circumstances.”

Steinburg said he’s pushing for the state to enhance COVID-19 protocols while the omicron variant continues to spread. Those measures includes negotiated vaccination mandates for educators and school staff, masking requirements with KN95 masks and asymptomatic and pool testing of students and staff regardless of vaccination status.

“With the lack of testing the masks, I can’t over emphasis the importance of the masks, the children are also the most vulnerable and vaccination rates among them are very low,” said Steinburg.

Steinburg said school districts across the commonwealth face staff shortages due to outbreaks and the number of students testing positive is topping 40% in some places.

“I think this points to be bigger public health crisis as more and more kids and staff members become infected, they are going to take it home,” said Steinburg.

Channel 11 reached out to the state’s department of education for comment but has not heard back yet.