House and Senate lawmakers call on governor to close all early education centers, primary and secondary schools

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Today a group of 16 bicameral, bipartisan lawmakers from across the Commonwealth issued the below letter to Governor Baker, calling on him to issue a directive to close all early education centers and K-12 schools. The letter is below.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Dear Governor Baker:

We are deeply concerned that you refuse to order the immediate closure of all early education centers and primary and secondary schools, while simultaneously ordering the cancellation of all gatherings of 250 or more people, reducing executive branch staff in offices across the Commonwealth, and encouraging businesses to support remote work to the greatest extent possible.

As the pandemic continues we will undoubtedly see negative, if not crippling, effects on our first responders, healthcare providers, and health delivery system; we must take swift and decisive action to engage in comprehensive social distancing strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Robust social distancing includes school closures. Many schools across the Commonwealth have already made the difficult but responsible decision that you refuse to make to close their schools for various lengths of time, ranging from one day to six weeks. The inconsistencies from one school district to the next have already led to confusion and unnecessary concern among school personnel, parents, and students.

This is the time for true leadership and a decision to close the schools. The Governors of Ohio, Maryland, Oregon, New Mexico, Michigan, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia have already ordered the closure of all schools in their respective states. In the absence of leadership at the federal level, they made this brave decision even though their positive case rates are dwarfed by the 108 cases in our Commonwealth. (Pennsylvania has 33; Oregon has 24; Maryland has 12; Ohio, New Mexico, and Michigan each have 1-5 cases; and West Virginia has none.)

It seems clear that our “low” number of positive test results is not an indication that the virus is not spreading, and spreading rapidly, but rather a symptom of the lack of adequate testing. The Boston Globe recently reported that between February 28 and March 12, the Department of Public Health (DPH) tested only 400 people, and has the capacity to test only 200 individuals per day. We recognize that present testing protocols and access to federally-approved test kits are mostly beyond your control and rest with the federal government. Nonetheless, you have the authority and the responsibility to take decisive action to reduce social contact in the absence of a full and accurate accounting of the number of positive cases. That action should include protecting our children, our families, and our teachers from contracting the disease themselves and spreading it to others.

We acknowledge that extended school closures are difficult for all involved and entail risks of their own. In particular, we recognize the inequities and difficulties that will result for many of our low income families, from childcare considerations to healthy food access. We applaud the school systems that have implemented grab-and-go breakfast and lunch for students who need nutritional support, and we know additional fast action will be needed from the state legislature and executive branch to support schools and families in mitigating against food- and income-insecurity. We also applaud the actions closed schools are taking to provide educational and behavioral supports for students with special needs and to prevent learning loss for all students. Finally, we lift up the districts that will continue to pay their teachers and staff during their extended closures — there will be no shortage of work to be done even on a remote basis. Each superintendent has had to figure out these new support structures on their own, rather than state leadership devising a plan and helping each district implement it.

You have the power to save lives and protect public health and safety. Please take action now to close the schools.

Sincerely,

Representative Tami Gouveia, 14th Middlesex

Senator Becca Rausch Norfolk, Bristol and Middlesex

Representative Maria Robinson, 6th Middlesex

Senator Jamie Eldridge, Middlesex and Worcester

Representative Michael Connolly, 26th Middlesex

Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, Second Suffolk Representative

Michelle DuBois Senator, 10th Plymouth

Sal DiDomenico, Middlesex and Suffolk

Representative Natalie Higgins, 4th Worcester

Senator Dean Tran, Worcester and Middlesex

Representative Mary Keefe, 15th Worcester

Representative Jack Lewis 7th Middlesex

Representative Christina Minicucci, 14th Essex

Representative Tram Nguyen 18th Essex

Representative John Rogers, 12th Norfolk

Representative Lindsay Sabadosa, 1st Hampshire