ANDOVER, Mass. — When Andover teachers sat outside school buildings to work on their first day back in August, they were illegally striking, according to a ruling from the labor review board.
They brought beach chairs, umbrellas, sun hats and spent the professional development day working outside the buildings, which they say are unsafe for teachers and students to return to amid a global pandemic.
“I would call it a protest,” Matthew Bach, president of the Andover Education Association, which represents teachers in town, told Boston 25 News that day. “I would call it in some ways a civil action.”
The protest came on the first day of school for teachers in Andover, Aug. 31, the first of nine professional days before students report back in mid-September. Bach said the superintendent wanted teachers to work inside school buildings but without a guarantee, in the union’s estimation, that those buildings are safe.
School administrators dispute that claim and the Andover school committee immediately filed a lawsuit against the union for engaging in a strike.
Despite having gone back to work already, the labor board sided with the school committee and ordered teachers to work inside the school -- a warning that their protest was considered an illegal strike.
These last-minute disputes are not unique to Andover and are emblematic of a larger issue statewide, with some teachers condemning Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley’s request they create three separate proposals for school as a “waste of time.”
Andover is set to go back using a hybrid model.
Teachers say the administration is not working with them. And the Massachusetts Teachers Association says this is part of a larger problem that’s affecting many districts.
The first day of school for students is scheduled for September 16.
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