Coronavirus Pandemic – NYC Public Schools Remain Closed. Teachers Union Authorizes Strike Over COVID-19 Disease Safe Reopening of Schools
New York City Strong news – New York, NY: United Federation of Teachers reports 9.01.2020.
Under the terms of the agreement, all New York City public school buildings will remain closed to students until Sept. 21, while final safety arrangements are completed, including the assignment of a school nurse to every building, ventilation checks and the presence of sufficient protective and cleaning supplies.
The decision on whether to reopen a building to students will be based on the UFT 50-item safety checklist, including social distancing of student desks, the availability of masks and face shields, and a room-by-room review of ventilation effectiveness.
Buildings or rooms that do not meet safety standards will remain closed.
Teachers will report to schools on Sept. 8. They will work with their colleagues to plan and develop strategies for the blended remote/in-person instruction that will be the learning method for the overwhelming majority of the city’s public school students.
Once in-person learning has begun, the DOE will establish a mandatory, robust system of repeated random COVID testing of adults and students.
A blind representative sample, comprised of 10% to 20% of all students and adults from every NYC DOE school, will be selected each month for COVID-19 testing, with results available within 48 hours. All random COVID monitoring test will be free of charge to participants.
Parents will be informed that, as testing is performed throughout the year, if parental/guardian consent has not been obtained for a student who has been selected randomly for testing, the student will be moved to the remote learning cohort.
Any staff who elect not to participate will placed on unpaid leave.
Students or staff found to have the virus, even in the absence of symptoms, will be quarantined for 14 days. City tracing teams will be dispatched to school immediately to determine potential contacts.
The presence of a COVID-19 case or cases confined to one class will result in the entire class moving to remote instruction; more than one case in a school will mean that the entire school will move to remote instruction until the contact tracing is completed.
Schools will need to switch to 100 percent remote instruction if the percentage of positive tests in New York City are equal to or more than 3% using a seven-day rolling average; however, even if the overall case rates across New York City were to remain low, all school buildings could be closed if there were recurrent, uncontrolled outbreaks in schools of COVID-19.
Any New York City zip code that reports a percentage of positive tests of 3% or higher using a seven-day rolling average will be saturated with additional testing and tracing including, but not limited to, increased testing of individuals in schools, opening new testing sites, door-to-door canvassing and targeted robocalls for at least a 14-day period or until such time as the seven-day rolling average for positive tests is below 3%, whichever period is longer.
All terms in this agreement will be incorporated in an amendment to the city’s re-opening schools plan submitted to the state.
The agreement will be presented today to the union’s Executive Board and Delegate Assembly.
08.31.2020. The Executive Board of the United Federation of Teachers Monday night unanimously approved a resolution instructing the union’s leadership to continue negotiating with the city with the intention of bringing to the union’s Delegate Assembly tomorrow either:
- A school reopening plan that meets the safety criteria set forth by independent medical experts, or, if negotiations fail,
- A strike authorization vote.
The 3,200-member Delegate Assembly is scheduled to meet Tuesday at 3:30 p.m.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew said: “We can’t afford to send students and staff back into any buildings until we have done everything possible — including a rigorous virus testing program — to see that they are safe. The members of the UFT know that public employee strikes are illegal, but we are determined to do what is necessary to protect our students and the families of New York City.”
On Aug. 19, the UFT held a press conference attended by medical experts, leaders of community and parent organizations and elected officials. The coalition called for the city to continue remote learning, delaying reopening until all city schools met a checklist of safety standards including adequate personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies, improved ventilation and a program of virus testing of adults and students.
Organizations and individuals urging a delayed reopening include the unions representing school principals and other school employees, the NAACP, the New York Immigration Coalition, a variety of parent groups, and an extensive list of federal, state and city officials.
New York is the only big-city school system in the U.S. that has planned to reopen for in-person teaching in September.
Nearly 230,000 New York City residents contracted the coronavirus, and more than 23,000 have died, including 130 active and retired UFT members.
The last UFT strike, a week-long job action, was in 1975 during a city fiscal crisis.
Teachers union, medical experts, elected officials, and parent and community groups: Individual schools deemed unsafe must remain closed
8.19.2020 – UFT calls for mandatory antibody or COVID-19 tests for anyone entering buildings before they open; creates UFT School Health and Safety Report to document procedures and sufficient PPE and cleaning supplies at each school.
United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew, joined by medical experts, elected officials, and parent and community representatives, announced today a sweeping program of safety reviews, testing protocols and other features designed to protect the health of students and staff in reopening school buildings.
The UFT urges all parents to opt for remote learning until the Department of Education notifies them their children’s schools meet the procedural and testing standards that are part of the union’s School Safety Report — even if it means delays in the opening of some schools.
Mr. Mulgrew said, “While our members want to be back in their classrooms, the safety of our students, their families and our staff comes first. Working with medical experts, we have created a set of health and safety standards we will apply to every building. Any school that fails to meet these guidelines should be off-limits to children, parents and teachers until the problems are corrected.”
More than 100 union investigators — who have already started reviewing more than 1,400 school buildings — will check every school for health and safety measures that include the presence of a school nurse, a six-foot separation between student desks, sufficient masks and other protective equipment, working ventilation systems to reduce the concentration of air-borne virus particles, and an isolation/quarantine room for students who develop symptoms of infection.
Because many students and staff will remain home for fulltime remote learning, the UFT believes a maximum of about 750,000 children and adults will need testing before school resumes. NYC has about 1.1 million school children in the system.
The union also urged both teachers and children, when possible, to immediately get a COVID-19 antibody test. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, the presence of COVID antibodies provides temporary immunity to re-acquiring the virus.
Those who cannot get such a test or test negative for antibodies will need to get a test for the active coronavirus in the 10 days before their school reopens. Those who test positive will attend school remotely.
The pre-entry testing will also establish a baseline for New York City to create a robust program of intermittent, random testing of school communities to detect asymptomatic spread.
Under the current city plan, classrooms will be closed and teachers and students quarantined and transition to remote learning if an individual case of coronavirus in that group is confirmed. If two cases are found from different classrooms, the school will be closed and all its staff and students quarantined and go to remote learning.
Mr. Mulgrew said, “The only way we are going to get through the coronavirus crisis is by working together to keep each other safe. The best safeguards for the health of our children, their families and our staff are strong procedures and protections, enough supplies and equipment, and rigid enforcement of testing and tracing measures.”
“We will do what we have to do to keep our kids and our families safe,” Mr. Mulgrew said.