Head of second-largest teachers’ union to call for schools to reopen 5 days a week for in-person classes

The president of the second-largest teachers’ union in the US will call for schools to reopen for in-person instruction five days a week, according to prepared remarks for an event scheduled for Thursday.

“There is no doubt: Schools must be open. In person. Five days a week,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers is expected to say. CNN obtained an advance copy of Weingarten’s speech from AFT spokeswoman Meghan Dooley. Her comments were first reported by The New York Times.

Weingarten is slated to give a virtual address Thursday outlining what is described as her vision for public education as more schools reopen after a school year of closures, remote and hybrid learning.

“It’s not risk-free,” Weingarten will say, and is expected to discuss the various mitigation strategies being taken in school districts across the country to reduce the possible transmission and spread of Covid-19.

Her remarks will come at a time when more school districts are reopening for full, in-person learning, but not all students are attending.

More than half of the nation’s K-8 public school districts are open for full in-person learning five days a week, according to the latest data from the US Department of Education. But just 44% of students in grade four and 33% of students in grade eight are actually attending full-time school, according to the latest report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

One of the hurdles many districts have faced in reopening are teachers’ unions, who in some cases threatened to strike if forced to return to in-person teaching.

Weingarten says AFT will devote $5 million to its effort to engage with members in a back-to-school campaign. “The United States will not be fully back … until we are fully back in school. And my union is all in,” Weingarten will say.

She will also address the work that lies ahead with students academically, socially and emotionally and in addressing education inequity that has been exacerbated by the pandemic.

“No one has come through these trying times unscathed,” Weingarten plans to say. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity not only to reopen and recover, but reimagine our schools in a way that every public school is a place where parents want to send their children, educators and support staff want to work and students thrive.”

Weingarten’s address is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday.