With less than a week to go before high school students enter the classroom, the 300-member United Federation of Teachers chapter at New Utrecht High School in Brooklyn voted to write this collective protest letter pointing out the safety and pedagogical problems with the Mayor’s reckless reopening plans.
City College Academy of the Arts and Salomé Ureña Leadership Academy, two colocated schools in Washington Heights, also wrote a letter about the hazards of instructional lunch and the short staffing at their schools, calling the Mayor’s plan “impractical and overly risky” and demanding fully remote instruction until “we have a truly safe and feasible plan to return children to school buildings”. CCAA teachers worked outside all day last week to draw attention to these issues (above, right).
New Utrecht educators made the following demands:
- Delay reopening of school buildings for students until safety of the community has been ensured and an effective plan for instruction is in place, prioritizing the most marginalized students, including students with disabilities, English language learners, students with interrupted formal education, and students experiencing homelessness.
- Independent assessment of the building’s ventilation system, complete with specific measurements and quantitative data that proves both the percentage of fresh air flowing into each space as well as the air exchange rates for classrooms and bathrooms meet the standards recommended by the ACGIH for indoor workplaces during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly at least 6 air changes per hour.
- Mandatory pre-testing as well as ongoing universal, frequent, and rapid testing available onsite and required prior to entry into the school building.
- Demonstrated contact tracing abilities in the event of 1 or more positive cases on campus.
- High quality, effective PPE, such as face shields, readily available for every adult and student in the building.
- No indoor eating for anyone in the building until safety is guaranteed.
- Additional, full-time cleaners and appropriate PPE, including N95 masks, that fully protects the head custodian and cleaners whose work includes increased risk of exposure.
- Any hybrid plan must also include adequate staff to ensure students receive daily, individualized instruction or compensate existing staff for additional work if providing both remote and in-person instruction.
- No elective course offerings can be sacrificed in order to make staffing for hybrid learning possible.
- When we are able to safely transition to a blended learning model, we must prioritize in person learning opportunities for students who face the greatest barriers to access in remote learning including, but not limited to, students with disabilities, English Language Learners, students with interrupted formal education, and students experiencing homelessness.