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Baker Supports Andover Decision, Says Teachers Need To Be In School

BOSTON (CBS) – Repeating his desire to see teachers back in classrooms this fall, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said Wednesday he supports the state labor board's ruling that Andover teachers took part in an illegal strike last week.

Baker has been pushing for students and teachers to return at least part-time for in-person learning, citing low coronavirus numbers in the state and precautions being taken with socially distanced desks and masks.

Air quality in the buildings is one of the teachers' top concerns. In Andover August 31, teachers refused to enter school buildings for a professional development day and worked outside instead to protest the district's reopening plan. Teachers reluctantly went inside to work the next day, after town threatened legal action. On Wednesday, the state's labor relations board ruled the teachers had participated in an illegal strike.

Baker said teachers' unions agreed with the state back in July that the school year would be shortened by ten days and that those days would be used by teachers for training for the new environment this fall.

"I think Andover made the right decision by arguing that a deal's a deal, that there was an agreement that those ten days would be spent conducting the training that was necessary," Baker said at a news conference Wednesday. "I applaud the decision. I think it was the right one."

"The leadership of the two big teachers unions –The MTA and AFT - had a series of meetings with the folks at (the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) and with Commissioner (Jeff) Riley to talk about this idea of taking 10 days of the school year - ten precious educational days of the school year - and applying them to training. And in an unprecedented decision DESE made the decision to take those 10 days - which are supposed to be about educating kids - and to make them available for teachers and administrators to get together and figure out the plan for whatever their district was in this year."

"I think the DESE position, which is basically that it's okay to teach and to be in a basically empty building, is an appropriate decision. And I think all the data we have, and all the advice we've gotten from our colleagues in the public health in the infectious disease and the pediatric community - is that that's okay," Baker said.

There has been no reaction yet from the unions to Baker's comments.

"I really think it's important to recognize and understand that the vast majority of communities in Massachusetts - because people did a ton of really hard work and made enormous sacrifices in many cases -, don't have much COVID at all, are way below the norms that almost everybody anywhere in the world would apply for determining whether or not you can go back and teach and educate kids."

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