HCCS teachers avoid strike after inspection clears building
Stephon Johnson | 10/1/2020, midnight
Hunter College Campus Schools (HCCS) teachers are ready to go back to school.
After an independent COVID inspection labeled HCCS safe, the Professional Staff Congress (PSC-CUNY), the union representing faculty and staff, called off a safety strike. Teachers for kindergarten through 6th grade are set to begin in-person learning as soon as possible.
“The faculty and staff of the Hunter College Campus Schools took a brave stand for the safety of students, teachers and the community. Because of their advocacy and the support of their union, HCCS has been forced to implement a whole series of new safety protocols,” stated PSC-CUNY President Barbara Bowen. “That the teachers were ready to strike helped to win a commitment to regular COVID testing, a safety inspection by an independent inspector, containment of dangerous mold, and a temporary restraining order that impelled Hunter to install HEPA air filters in classrooms.”
CUNY/HCCS management also agreed to an independent safety inspection at the Silberman School of Social Work building before the 9th and 10th grade classes began this Thursday, Oct 1. The PSC also called for a health and safety labor-management meeting this Friday to address the details of the schools’ COVID plan.
“None of these protections was in place until the teachers and their union fought for them. Our fight was a fight for everyone in the HCCS community,” Bowen concluded.
In early September, NCCS teachers voted no confidence in school administrators after demanding a building inspection from an independent authority. Teachers protested outside of the Upper East Side-based school on parent/student orientation day wanting the mostly windowless classrooms to get a proper ventilation inspection and undergo other safety measures.
It was recently reported that HCCS teachers accused Hunter College President Jennifer Raab and HCCS Director Lisa Siegmann of allegedly not allowing an independent safety inspector access to the school and passing off a memo from a contractor hired to repair the ventilation system as an independent inspector’s report.
PSC-CUNY officials recently petitioned the New York State Supreme Court to grant a temporary restraining order and an injunction against the City University of New York and Hunter College. They asked a judge to bar administrators from forcing its constituents to return to in-person teaching at the public elementary and high school until “real” HEPA filters are installed in every classroom, as required in their reopening plan. They also asked the judge to direct CUNY to allow an independent to inspect the building and ventilation system.
A CUNY spokesperson wouldn’t comment on the petition citing that it was pending litigation.
At the time, HCCS Chair of the Professional Staff Congress Tina Moore said that classes weren’t ready to be reopened and that the school’s plan “fails to meet the standards set for the vast majority of NYC public school students and it puts students, faculty, staff, families and our community at risk of contracting and spreading a lethal virus.
“The Hunter College Campus Schools administration must come to the table and listen to the concerns of its teachers,” said Moore.