AFT PENNSYLVANIA URGES CAUTION ON REOPENING SCHOOLS
Plymouth Meeting, PA, January 8, 2021—On behalf of its 36,000 members and 61 locals, AFT Pennsylvania President Arthur G. Steinberg on Friday released the following statement urging the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Department of Health and Department of Education to use caution after new guidance issued by Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine encourages districts to resume in-person learning.
“It is troubling to see Pennsylvania’s chief public health official, and someone whom I greatly respect, issue guidance encouraging districts to return elementary school students to school as soon as next week. Currently, there is not enough data to ensure that this is safe.
“While science does, in fact, suggest that children and adolescents younger than 20 years have a lower susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 infection, the role they play in transmission of the virus remains unclear. We must remember that not every person who enters a school building is a student; teachers, paraprofessionals, administrative staff, custodial staff, and maintenance workers all exist in this ecosystem.
“In communities where COVID numbers are already substantial, school reopening appears to increase case counts. Whereas studies suggest that incidence rates of 5 to 20 per day per 100,000 in population could have no effect on community spread, every single county in Pennsylvania is currently over 20 incidents per day per 100,000.
“Teachers want to be in classrooms with their students. And students are falling behind without in-person learning. But to reopen schools with the virus continuing to rage in this manner is irresponsible and dangerous. I urge the Secretary of Health and Acting Secretary of Education to reconsider.”