Mass. educators express confusion, frustration with new mask-wearing recommendations

BOSTON — Educators across the state are expressing confusion and frustration following new mask-wearing guidance released by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The President of the Massachusetts Teachers Association called the guidance “reckless,” saying if it doesn’t change immediately, students are in for another chaotic school year.

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“The commissioner’s guidance is no guidance at all,” President Merrie Najimy told Boston 25 News. “The unions have been leading the charge to return safety to in-person and what the commissioner has just done is set us up for the potentially chaotic school year, increasing the likelihood that we’re going to have to close schools again.”

Najimy expressed concern that the guidance could jeopardize in-person learning and added that it failed to acknowledge the highly contagious delta variant, which is currently infecting those who are already vaccinated.

“It’s better to start with more stringent regulations and pull back as we watch cases go down, than have to scramble when cases go up to be prepared, because we wouldn’t be without the mask,” she said. “We are in a moment where the delta variant is the most contagious of all the variants. We are seeing a rise in cases. We do have a shared responsibility to protect each other.”

Jessica Tang, President of the Boston Teacher’s Union told Boston 25 News on Friday that she also had concerns about vaccinated students ditching the masks.

“The area that we are really concerned about and have questions about is that it contradicts the CDC guidance, even that those who are vaccinated wear masks indoors as well.”

Tang said DESE guidance clearly contradicted that from the CDC, which is making for all indoors.

“It is particularly concerning because we are increasingly seeing the research that shows that people who are vaccinated can still get the virus, can still get sick. And the vaccine is working in that there are far fewer deaths and severe complications, but again, if we are going to be back in-person with our students which we truly want to be able to do, we have to protect those who may be living with those who have underlying health conditions. We do have, for example, a lot of medically fragile students in our schools as well.”