Photo Courtesy of UFT
United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew
By Forum Staff
United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew, joined by medical experts, elected officials, and parent and community representatives, recently announced 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 City 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.
“While our members want to be back in their classrooms, the safety of our students, their families and our staff comes first,” Mulgrew said. “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.”
According to the UFT, more than 100 union investigators 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, UFT officials said the union 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 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 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, Mulgrew noted.
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.
“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,” Mulgrew said. “We will do what we have to do to keep our kids and our families safe.”