The goal is to bring the children back to school


RIO RANCHO, NM (AP) – The leader of a national teachers’ union visited New Mexico on Thursday as part of a nationwide campaign to convince parents that it is safe to send their children back to public school.

The effort comes as more parents voice concerns about mask warrants, saying they have no choice as school boards adopt state and federal guidelines on the matter.

The Albuquerque School Board ended its meeting early Wednesday amid protests from parents and members of a rural school board in eastern New Mexico were suspended by state officials for deciding that masks would be optional this school year.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said she believes masks are part of the precautions school districts can take to ensure students can safely resume in-person learning.

In her talks with parents across the country, she said they wanted to know details of authorities’ plans to keep their children safe, plans for masks and whether school ventilation systems have been improved. .

“We’re on full press this month to build confidence among parents and educators that schools are safe and to get gunshots in the arms of people who have resisted,” Weingarten said in an interview.

Weingarten has come under fire in recent weeks after some said she was hesitant about reopening schools following the overthrow of federal authorities over mask-wearing rules for those vaccinated.

But Weingarten stressed that his union’s goal is to get students back to class and do it safely.

“We are reopening our schools full time because we know our children need them, but we also know they need to be safe,” she said.

Weingarten’s meeting Thursday with school officials in Rio Rancho followed visits to Albany, New York on Monday, where she knocked on parents’ doors and a trip to Florida this weekend, where concerns are high due to a spate of COVID-19 cases.

“I think the last three weeks of the delta surge has again given people a break – not a break on the reopening of schools, but safety concerns are back to the fore again,” he said. she declared.

Weingarten will visit seven other states this week as part of the union’s campaign to support immunization clinics and encourage parents through notice boards, advertisements, town halls and door-to-door visits that schools are safe. The work is funded by $ 5 million in grants.

She said the Rio Rancho District had built on efforts made earlier this year to keep students and staff safe. The school board voted 3-2 this week to allow vaccinated high school students not to wear masks after showing proof of vaccination.

New Mexico’s largest district – Albuquerque Public Schools – requires all students, employees, and visitors to wear masks indoors, whether or not they are vaccinated. Santa Fe schools require masks inside school buildings and on buses.

New Mexico health officials say nearly 40% of children ages 12 to 17 in the state have been fully immunized.

While the state’s overall vaccination rate is around 65%, officials have said they are happy the rate is increasing among young people.

New Mexico reported 671 more confirmed infections on Thursday – the highest daily total since March. However, state data shows that the percentage of new cases each week for those under 18 is much lower than for other age groups.

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