Boston Teachers Union flags 'extensive’ safety issues in school buildings

Boston students with higher learning needs are expected to return to classrooms starting next week, but the Boston Teachers Union is rais...

Boston students with higher learning needs are expected to return to classrooms starting next week, but the Boston Teachers Union is raising concerns that “extensive” safety issues related to transmission of COVID-19 remain in many district buildings.

The union issued a report with the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, or MassCOSH, on Thursday outlining the concerns that were developed during walkthroughs of six buildings — seven schools — last week. 

In a statement, MassCOSH executive director Jodi Sugerman-Brozan said the group is “very concerned” about the condition of some of the buildings. 

“The organizations found major issues relating to windows and fans, ventilation and filtration, indoor air quality inspection data, and cleaning protocols,” the teachers union said in a statement. 

According to the BTU, many of the items that were on the organization’s “checklist” for a safe return were not in place or lacking during the walkthroughs, including window fans, sanitizer in every classroom, and N95 respirators for nurses. 

“Since that time, BPS has delivered PPE, fans and additional extension cords, with more scheduled for delivery, to many schools,” the union said. “However, there are reports of fans being delivered that do not fit the windows or cannot be plugged in because the extension cords are too short. The BTU is advocating for another walkthrough for all facilities to assure that all required items are in place, prior to when staff and students are to be in the facilities.”

The union said it is advocating for the opening of “safe buildings” as soon as possible, but that rooms or buildings that are not up to scratch should not be used until they can be made safer. 

“Our highest-needs students are expected to go back to school a week from today, and while some of our buildings are ready, many of them are not verifiably safe,” Jessica Tang, president of the BTU, said in a statement on Thursday. “We cannot send our students and educators into buildings that aren’t properly ventilated and maintained, and we will continue to work with the district and city to ensure that they are.”

The district did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the union’s report or concerns.

Boston Public Schools kicked off the school year on Monday with all students beginning with remote learning. The district has a four-phase plan for returning to in-person learning through the fall.

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Newsrust: Boston Teachers Union flags 'extensive’ safety issues in school buildings
Boston Teachers Union flags 'extensive’ safety issues in school buildings
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