BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) – Boston Mayor Michelle Wu announced Thursday that the city reached an agreement with the Boston Teachers Unions (BTU) on COVID-19 policies in schools.
The memorandum of understanding, signed by both the BTU and Boston Public Schools (BPS), will allow unvaccinated employees to submit proof of two negative COVID tests per week while virus transmission remains low. These educators will have access to regular testing during these periods as well. The MOA will also let unvaccinated employees accrue paid time off instead of being placed on administration leave when virus transmission rates are high, and these individuals are not allowed inside school buildings.
The agreement was ratified after 84% of BTU members voted in its favor Wednesday night. The BTU reports about 99% percent of BPS teachers have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or received an exemption.
“I’m grateful for the vast majority of our teachers who have already gotten vaccinated,” Mayor Michelle Wu said. “This overwhelming ratification vote of a policy that has already boosted vaccination rates across our workforce and will ensure that all new hires must be vaccinated will help us prioritize a safe and healthy environment.”
This agreement first began to formulate when the BTU sent a request to Mayor Wu's Office for a compromise after she changed Boston’s policy to remove the option for weekly COVID testing for city employees. Prior to sending this request, the BTU also expressed their discontent with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s (DESE) decision to distribute 200,000 COVID rapid tests to Massachusetts schools back in December 2021.
“The state has dropped the ball on the critical safety issue of testing access,” the BTU wrote back in January. “BTU educators want to keep our classrooms as safe as possible, so we’d like to see the state do a better job listening to families statewide who’ve demanded better testing protocols and planning for a long time.”
The newly signed MOA comes after several weeks of bargaining between the union and the district to keep 367 educators who have chosen to remain unvaccinated thus far, according to the BTU.
“We are glad to have reached an agreement with the district that will uplift the health and safety of our educators, students, and communities, while still being able to retain our educators who have chosen to remain unvaccinated,” the union said. “The agreement takes important steps to promote public health and to mitigate classroom staffing disruptions.”
In addition, Mayor Wu has received criticism for the city’s vaccine mandate from other unions representing Boston City employees. She said during a press conference Thursday these unions were given a similar offer as the BTU, but no agreement had been met.
“The shape of the deal that was also proposed to our public safety unions, we did not reach an agreement with them.”
Mayor Wu has also announced that Boston’s school mask mandate will stay in place past February 28, which is the same day the state’s mask requirement for students and teachers will lift.