ALBUQUERQUE — AFT New Mexico President Whitney Holland, AFT New Mexico Executive Vice President Kathy Chavez, and Albuquerque Teachers Federation President Dr. Ellen Bernstein released the following statement:
“We, like all New Mexicans, are deeply troubled by the drastic number of new COVID-19 infections throughout the communities we serve. With the Delta Variant firmly taking hold in certain parts of our state, New Mexico’s public school educators must reaffirm their commitment to advocating for science-based, safety-focused decision-making for the safety of our students and educational professionals in our schools.
“To be clear, the Delta Variant is not only highly-transmissible, but also poses a very real threat to those New Mexicans – including children under the age of twelve – who are unable, or more troubling, unwilling to receive a vaccination to protect themselves against COVID-19. The vaccine against COVID-19 is safe, free, and widely available. We strongly call on all remaining New Mexico educators and school staff to take the vaccine without delay, if able.
“Furthermore, we encourage all AFT New Mexico unions to work directly with their local educational authorities to develop mandatory mask-wearing policies for all students, staff, personnel, and visitors who enter their buildings and facilities. Additionally, our union supports strict and frequent surveillance testing for non-vaccinated employees, increased student surveillance testing opt-in efforts, and equally stringent policies for unvaccinated, non-student/staff visitors.
“New Mexico’s educators and educational staff have diligently worked since March 2020 to ensure students were educated, safe, fed, and supported to the best of our abilities and circumstances, and as school begins another academic year, we have witnessed the joy of educators and students upon their return to a ‘normal’ school setting. We want our students back in our classrooms and we are excited to be back ourselves, yet we would be abdicating our responsibilities as citizens and role models to not issue this call to action.
“While we are not, at this time, calling for mandatory vaccinations for eligible students or staff in K-12 settings, the fact remains that our ability to return to and stay in full-time, in-person education and instruction falls squarely on the shoulders of the remaining adult New Mexicans who have thus far resisted doing their part to fight and eradicate COVID-19 in New Mexico. Full stop.”