Opening schools in September must involve many critical safety protocols, already in place in medical facilities, public buildings, and businesses. These include:
1. Availability of universal testing for Covid infection and antibodies
2. Screening (questioning) for prior Covid exposure
3. Checking each person’s temperature at building entrances
Sanitation protocols include:
1. Hand sanitizer
3. Air filters (we know that Governor Cuomo is only permitting malls to reopen if they install a special medical grade HEPA filter that can remove the tiny COVID virus particles from the air)
4. Hand washing stations and bathrooms with soap and water
5. Face masks
In public schools this involves students and staff working in classrooms and other areas of the school building. Activities include:
1. Providing breakfast and lunch
2. Supervising: Buses, halls and stairwell, fire drills, hard and soft lockdown drills, morning entrance and afternoon dismissal, and toileting of young children
There needs to be daily monitoring of:
1. Children and staff with symptoms
2. Cold and flu season, compromised immune health
3. Staff with pre-existing conditions
4. Children with underlying health concerns eg asthma, allergies, and other sensitivities
5. Pregnant staff and parents/family members at risk for exposure
6. Special needs students with specific physical mental and emotional health concerns
Finally, there should be appropriate and effective training in all of the above for all staff and faculty in every school building
We question the feasibility and the ability of the DOE to prepare for and implement such critical and necessary protocols across one of the largest school districts in the nation in an effective and competent manner. We reviewed the PowerPoint provided to principals at their meeting with the Chancellor and are dismayed that there is no mandatory call to have faculty members tested and cleared in order to work in September. Testing is free in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut and is available at thousands of locations. There is no reason why this should not be mandated.
It is obvious that we must recognize that the health and well being of every child and every adult is paramount and that placing students, families, staff and faculty in danger serves no purpose other than to capitulate to public opinion and the pressure to “return to normal” with no regard to the dire consequences that may ensue.
As a caucus representing the rank and file of the UFT, we must acknowledge the legitimate apprehensions of our members, and insist that the mayor and the chancellor, who have failed to prove either their ability or willingness to prepare for and implement effective measures during this pandemic, address the urgent and valid concerns of teachers, students, parents, and families faced with an uncertain and unpredictable start of the academic year this coming September.