Boston school nurses stage sit-in at City Hall over city’s plan to reopen classrooms

Boston school nurses stage sit-in at City Hall over city's plan to reopen classrooms

BOSTON — Boston school nurses took to City Hall Wednesday to protest schools reopening.

They are voicing their concerns about the city’s plan for the new school year saying they have been shut out of the planning and decision-making process to reopen schools.

The nurses, who are members of the Boston Teachers Union, staged a sit-in at City Hall Plaza Wednesday. The group said in a Facebook post announcing the demonstration that since they “didn’t get a seat at the table” on reopening measures, they’ll bring folding chairs. The nurses say they’re concerned about student and staff safety in the current reopening plans for Boston Public Schools, including staffing levels, the availability of personal protective equipment and adequate cleaning of facilities.

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“What do we want? A seat at the table! What do we want? A seat at the table!” the dozens of school nurses chanted.

The nurses brought their own chairs at the City Hall protest, symbolizing bringing their own seat to the table. They say its not safe to reopen schools this Fall.

“This is unusual that the school nurses are not at the table. Right now the school nurses are the front line and that’s why we need to be there at the table,” Lisa Thomas, a nurse at Frederick Pilot Middle School in Dorchester said.

The nurses say before schools re-open we need more rapid testing sites along with district and state provided PPE. They also say school buildings need to be updated.

“There some schools that are not up to date. There are some schools that don’t have isolation rooms and unfortunately those schools need more attention,” Thomas said.

They were joined by other supporters including Dr. Robbie Goldstein, an infectious disease doctor at MGH. He says schools can be ready to re-open this Fall if we follow the data and if these nurses are given input

“I think we could be ready if these educators had a seat at the table, if the nurses could be there and share what their fears are,” he said.

The school nurses say some nurses’ offices don’t even have sinks or enough paper towels and soap.

“If the person isn’t safe and the kids are not healthy they cannot learn. So yeah, we want the kids to go to school but if you’re not healthy…life and education are two separate things,” Mugemana Musabwase another Boston school nurse said.

Massachusetts’ latest coronavirus totals remain steady as the state tries to determine how and when to reopen schools in the fall. On Tuesday, state health leaders reported 178 new cases in Massachusetts and 14 new deaths. The state’s rate of positive tests has increased from 1.7% to just under 2% which officials believe is the result of some small clusters.

“I’m going to take the safety of our kids, I’m going to take the safety of our nurses, the safety of our teachers, and that’s going to be our number one priority here in the city of Boston,” said Mayor Marty Walsh at a Wednesday news conference addressing the planned sit-in. “I hope our numbers are down. I hope our weekly rate is at zero and I hope we get to that point. It’s too early to say that right now. So now is the time to be sitting and having conversations.”

Walsh said while the concerns are expected and valid, “at some point, we’re going to have to reopen school, whether that’s September 10, October 10, November 10, December 10, whatever it is, and I think that right now is the time to have those conversations about what that looks like.”

There are several upcoming public meetings planned for parents to voice their concerns as well. Boston public schools and districts across the state have also been sending out surveys to get parents feedback about reopening.

According to the reopening timeline Boston Public Schools’ website, a decision is expected Friday on whether city schools will have a remote or hybrid learning model for the fall. In early August, parents can choose the best option for their child - whether they’ll continue attending remotely or through a mix of in-person and online classes. School is slated to start Sept. 10.

Boston 25 has reached out to Boston Public Schools but have not yet heard back for comment.

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