“I will continue to collaborate with all of our partners to make sure our schools are safe for everyone, which will include conversations with all stakeholders,” Conrad said in an emailed statement Wednesday, the day after discussing the recommendation with the School Committee.
Conrad presented the committee with three possible responses: simply take the recommendation under advisement; initiate “informal conversations with the BEA to see what their thinking is;” or “open formal negotiations with the BEA.” (The Bedford Education Association is the teachers’ collective bargaining unit.)
The committee expressed individual support for requiring vaccinations, but did not as a group address any of the options.
“We don’t discuss negotiating in open session, but I’m happy to have that discussion on how to get teachers up to 100 percent,” said member Dan Brosgol. His colleague Ann Guay said she liked the idea of informal discussions; Brosgol also indicated agreement. “This may be an issue for other town employees, and we will see where that goes,” she added.
“It would be wonderful for everyone who is eligible to be vaccinated,” said member JoAnn Santiago. She cited the “cooperative relationship that the sides have worked to cultivate, and I would like to honor that going forward in a way that the School Committee and administration appreciate the issue.”
Monday’s Board of Health motion was worded that the School Committee “do whatever they need to do” to initiate the staff vaccine mandate. The reference was to the possibility that collective bargaining units might regard the mandate as a change in working conditions and seek renegotiations.
Lincoln teachers recently enthusiastically accepted a staff mask requirement, said member Maureen Richichi, who introduced the motion. The union even collaborated on the wording, she added.
“We constantly hear that the best way to protect kids is staff vaccination,” said Richichi. “It is one of the tools we can use to make the best protection for the unvaccinated. The best thing we can do in schools is to vaccinate all the adults.”
Guay on Tuesday said she was disappointed that she learned of the recommendation through news reports and not directly from the Board of Health, which she said “is well within their purview to provide that kind of guidance.” Brosgol stated, “We have all the authority in this area without outside advice.”
Mike Rosenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 781-983-1763