The city’s teachers and principals unions both say Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza have a lot more explaining to do about COVID-19 safety protocols before they’ll agree to send teachers back into the classroom this fall.
The mayor vowed Friday to reopen schools in September as long as city coronavirus infection rates remain below 3 percent as City Hall rolled out broad safety protocols for the upcoming year.
But United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew pushed back on the plan and called for more stringent safety measures.
City Hall’s model will encourage, but not require, teachers to get tested just before the September start of the school year and will provide expedited testing and results for them at 34 centers.
But the union pressed for mandatory random testing throughout the year to guard against exposures.
“The standards the city proposed — for protection, testing, and closing of schools and classrooms — are not enough,” Mulgrew said in a statement. “We need randomized testing of school communities throughout the year and a vigorous contact tracing system that gives schools test results and a course of action with a 24-hour turnaround.”
The UFT also questioned the ability of the Department of Education to enforce safety precautions for city schools, including mandatory masks for students.
“What’s more, even if there are stronger safety standards in place, we still have grave concerns about the city’s ability to enforce them effectively in every school,” he said “Right now, this is not enough to protect students and staff.”
The Council of School Supervisors and Administrators also expressed doubt about the existing format Friday.
“We have serious concerns about what has been communicated to school leaders so far regarding safety protocols and instructional designs as well the city’s ability to provide schools with the necessary resources to implement their plan,” said CSA President Mark Cannizzaro, whose union represents school principals.
“We have been meeting with the DOE to communicate these concerns and will continue to fight for common sense protocols that will protect our school communities and provide children with the education they deserve.”
Both de Blasio and Carranza said they’re working closely with the unions but conceded points of contention.
The teachers union has broached the possibility of court action and protests if their demands are not met while some factions within the group have not ruled out strikes.
Positive student coronavirus cases in city schools will trigger temporary classroom and building closures along with mandatory quarantines for impacted kids and staff. Responses will vary according to the circumstances at individual schools.
De Blasio has backed a partial school reopening in part to provide scheduling relief for city parents who are not able to work remotely and must grapple with childcare dilemmas.
Depending on an individual school’s size and building footprint, kids would be in school between one and three days a week.
De Blasio said Friday that school operations could be modified if the coronavirus retreats still further in New York City but said officials are awaiting a vaccine before authorizing a full resumption of classroom learning.
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