The president of the second-largest teachers union in the U.S. said her organization supports a full reopening of schools this fall, citing recent safety advancements in the country.
"There is real joy about being in school," Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers said in an interview on CBSN. "The safety protocols have really worked, but more than anything else has been the vaccines, and with all of that, that's why we said full speed ahead for September."
This week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expanded access to Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine to young people age 12 and up. To date, more than one-third of all Americans have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
However, a recent poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that just 30% of parents planned to get their kids vaccinated right away. Another 26% said they would wait and see, while 18% said they would only get the vaccine for their child if their school required it, and 23% said they would definitely not get them vaccinated.
The union president said she envisions protocols like mitigation, testing and ventilation as part of the effort to reopen schools safely, as well as outreach to families to make them comfortable with the transition back to the classroom. However, she said she does not expect required vaccinations for students and teachers, citing misinformation and polarization in the country.
"I think we have to convince people about vaccine efficacy..." Weingarten said. "Trust has to be — it is — key to really dissipating fear."
She said that 97% of schools are already open in person either full or part-time and that "virtually every school district" with members of the union have schools reopening in person.
"The joy that I see is incredible of both teachers and kids saying, I want to be in school with my kids," she said.