Boston Teachers Union files injunction pushing for transition to remote learning

BOSTON — The Boston Teachers Union has filed an injunction to stop in-person learning and switch back to remote as the city of Boston’s COVID-19 infection rate grows.

On Thursday morning, the union posted to their website saying they are seeking injunctive relief after the city and the district decided not to comply with the memorandum of agreement (MOA), which would require BPS to transition to fully remote learning as the city is now considered at high risk for COVID-19.

Under the terms of the MOA, “If the citywide COVID-19 positivity rate rises above 4% citywide, BPS will transition to full remote learning for all students, and BTU bargaining unit members will have the option to be remote as well.”

In the interest of safety for teachers, students and staff, the injuction refers to the terms agreed upon in the MOA and reiterates that allowing in-person learning to continue poses a serious health hazard as rising COVID-19 rates have surpassed 4% citywide.

“BTU will continue to comply with the language in the MOA that allows for an option to teach remotely today and tomorrow and beyond – and will support any educators that may face undue repercussions as a result of exercising their right to work safely and remotely now that they citywide rate is above 4%, and is much higher in many Boston neighborhoods,” the union said.

The union is also encouraging members of the community to reach out to the mayor through the city’s 311 line, as well as the superintendent and school committee chair.

“In order to best achieve the goal of providing the best possible instruction for all students, BPS must work with us to create a scheduling plan that ensures appropriate staffing for high quality instruction in buildings that are safe, without sending in thousands of non-essential staff whose presence unnecessarily increases the risk of COVID-19 transmission among students, educators, and the public at-large,” the union said.

Citing’s a message sent by the superintendent on Wednesday which threatened disciplinary action towards members who exercise their rights in the MOA agreement, the union reiterated that both the city and district negotiated and signed on to the MOA.

“It is our belief that such actions, if taken, would be an illegal violation of the MOA agreement,” the union said.

The news comes a day after Mayor Marty Walsh announced BPS would be pausing its timeline for in-person learning due to the rising cases of COVID-19 in the city, but that they would still keep the existing hybrid learning plan in place. Teachers are saying even a hybrid learning model can pose a serious health risk to them, their students and school staff members.

Mayor Marty Walsh’s office released a statement Thursday in response to the union’s legal move.

“The Mayor wholeheartedly believes that special consideration must be given to our highest needs students who rely on the in-person instruction and support offered by their teachers in a classroom setting,” the statement reads, “and that we cannot take this away from them when there’s an opportunity, backed by public health, to have them in schools.”

The Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) sent a letter to the superintendent Wednesday saying schools can safely reopen for high-priority students. The letter calls the four percent threshold a “conservative approach.”

Part of the agreement between the union and city says union members will return to buildings if the BPHC approves of it.

You can read the full message from the BTU here.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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