September Return: What Will Teachers Face?

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

2. Surfaces

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

6. Gloves

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. 

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  1. Sonia Rodriguez

    Thank you for your in-depth info. However, I wonder about Substitute Teachers and whether they will also obtain some effective training with regard to COVID19.

  2. Concerned Educator

    I got this from a colleague of mine on Facebook.

    “I don’t get why everyone keeps pushing the “schools need to be open” thing like it guarantees that students will get better instruction or that it’s guaranteed to be better than fully remote learning. It’s more of a guarantee that it’ll be worse than fully remote and that’s assuming things will be “as safe as possible” (a big assumption).

    Let’s look at logistics first. The current plan calls for students attending on a revolving schedule (basically 33% of their school days will be in person and the rest remote). What this means is they’re still not even going to be in class a majority of the time AND on an irregular schedule. Not only would this be a mess for parents at home trying to work around it or students trying to come to school on the right dates, this entire plan assumes your school can fit 33% of the school population daily, which my school already knows it cannot.

    How about the classes themselves? No matter how safe you try to make it (a big stretch given how some schools didn’t get cleaning supplies in April when we actually had money), any in-person instruction guarantees an increase in virus transmission risk. Let’s put that aside as an “acceptable occupational hazard” for the sake of argument.

    Someone tell me how it is that a subjects like mine (Science) that relies on group work, multi-day labs, and shared materials are going to go about things when students cannot work in groups or share materials. We literally won’t have access to or be able to use any of the materials we normally have. We won’t even be able to make copies of worksheets to give students because of the potential transmission risk. So what can we do? Demonstrations in front of the class? Questions and Answers? There literally isn’t a single thing that can be done with the current safety restrictions that cannot be done remotely to the same degree of efficacy.

    Remember also that the DOE, despite months of time being given to them to plan contingencies, have effectively thrown the details of re-opening to each individual school. If they couldn’t figure it out, then tell me how teachers, with worries about viral transmission, the irregular nature of the scheduling, and the need to juggle both remote and in-person learning of multiple cohorts of students will be able to provide the same quality of feedback and instruction they normally would. We also had teacher’s choice cancelled, which means we don’t get any money this year to buy anything at all without directly using our own money.

    On top of that, we keep mentioning budget shortfalls, but it will cost the city tens of millions of dollars to keep schools open daily and to provide everything from bus service to PPE for students/staff to daily cleaning supplies compared to just doing things remotely.

    All this for what? A learning environment that is equivalent at best and likely worse than remote learning? Sorry, but the reasoning isn’t adding up and social interaction with peers isn’t a good enough reason to provide a sub-par education, increase virus transmission risk, and waste tens of millions that could be used to develop digital materials for educators that can be useful for decades to come or to keep some teachers from being excessed from schools.”

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  5. It seems to me that Solidarity falls short as well, unwilling to take the stand to come out and say that if the DOE cannot get it’s ducks in a row, we must stay remote.

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