ACTFL Statement on Prioritizing Health and Safety of All Educators and Learners This Fall

CONTACT: Howie Berman
703.894.2900 ext. 106

ACTFL uplifts the dedicated educators who have spent their summer preparing to engage students in high-quality world language instruction. As we return to school this fall, we must prioritize the health and safety of our educators and learners, paying particular attention to ensuring equitable access to language educational support for learners in under-resourced communities.

Regardless of the decisions made by individual school districts, colleges, or universities on what instruction looks like this fall, it is imperative that they be grounded in science, supported by federal, state, and local guidelines, and that the health and safety of educators and learners be considered paramount. In every classroom, according to CDC guidelines, (1) physical distancing, deep cleaning, and health assessment protocols should be established and followed; (2) adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks, should be provided to teachers and students; (3) accommodations should be made to protect those educators and learners with underlying medical conditions; and (4) adequate mental health and emotional support services should be made available to teachers, students, and their related school communities.

According to the American Academy of Pediatricians’ most recent COVID-19 Guidance for Safe Schools, all students older than two and all school staff should wear masks in indoor settings, unless a medical or developmental condition prevents such use. Given that many students are still not yet eligible to receive the vaccine, masking makes in-person learning safer for everyone.

We know that vaccination is our best defense against the most severe effects of COVID-19, especially when combined with other mitigation efforts. Given the severity of the latest surge in cases and increased transmissibility of the latest delta variant, all educators and support staff should receive a COVID-19 vaccination—and those who don't or are unable should undergo regular COVID-19 testing—for the safety of their students, their colleagues, and the surrounding community. Language educators must be included in any decisions that impact their health and safety, their teaching, and their learners. It is the teachers who know best the challenges faced by their students and their families—and it should be the guidance of those same teachers that is relied upon to ensure that sound decisions are being made. Failure to empower them with the tools they need to be safe and successful, such as masking, vaccination, and regular testing, not only imperils the health and wellness of many today, but it also puts at risk the next generation of educators who may be unwilling to enter or stay in a profession they see as unsupportive.