NYC teachers push for schools to stay closed come fall


STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — New York City’s public school teachers are calling for schools to remain closed come fall and remote learning to continue, citing safety concerns for students and staff members if they reopen during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The UFT Solidarity caucus of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) union announced Sunday it was calling for support to oppose Mayor Bill de Blasio’s reopening plan and to push for a fully remote start to the school year.

“We truly believe that there is too much at stake at reopening school buildings for in person learning. We have seen terrible instances of spikes of COVID in countries, like France and Israel, that reopened school buildings after they believed that COVID was being well monitored and managed,” the caucus said in the announcement.

The caucus is also calling for the immediate resignation of city Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza with a petition of Change.org, which has more than 1,000 signatures as of 6 p.m. Sunday.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that all schools across the state will be able to reopen in September based on the state’s low coronavirus infection rate.

New York City submitted its full reopening plan to the state last week, which includes a blended learning model. As part of the model, students will rotate in groups between in-person and remote learning. Students will go to school two or three times a week, and participate in remote learning the rest of the week.

The caucus cited cases across the United States in which school buildings reopened and positive coronavirus cases were reported — prompting officials to shut down schools again and students and teachers quarantining.

It also noted that New York City is the largest school district in the U.S. and had the most coronavirus cases at the peak of the pandemic. There are also concerns that public transportation will be a “vector” for spreading the virus, and that classrooms and school buildings won’t have enough ventilation.

And educators will have to continuously remind students to social distance, keep masks on, and wash their hands. They won’t be able to comfort students on bad days, and there won’t be high-fives or sharing materials.

Some Staten Island educators told the Advance/SILive.com they are nervous about going back to their classrooms, citing concerns over ensuring students wear masks appropriately, how cleaning and disinfecting will work, and what happens if a student or staff member contracts COVID-19.

“Our governor and mayor claim that we are ready for school buildings to reopen but if school districts smaller than NYC can have these sudden surges of coronavirus, it is terrifying to think what may happen in NYC if school buildings are allowed to reopen,” the caucus said.

UFT Solidarity said it is prepared to pursue legal action to protect the health and safety of its members and students.

The caucus is also calling for the immediate resignation of city Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza with a petition of Change.org, which has more than 1,000 signatures as of 6 p.m. Sunday.

The DOE did not immediately respond to a request for comment at the time of publication.

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