DOE and CUNY’s coronavirus protocol questioned

Stephon Johnson | 9/17/2020, midnight
Two weeks ago New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza toured P.S. 59 in Bedford-Stuyvesant ...
School/education Pixabay photo

Two weeks ago New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza toured P.S. 59 in Bedford-Stuyvesant trying to convince the public that schools were safe to attend.

“…If you went around the building with us, you saw absolutely beautiful classrooms, not only just clean, like extraordinarily clean, lively, colorful, energetic classrooms,” said de Blasio. “Richard and I have spent a long time going through classrooms in our careers, and immediately I could see the glow in Richard’s face that this is exactly what we want to see all over the city.”

If the past week is any indication, the mayor needs to do a lot more convincing.

UPDATE

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday changes to start dates for New York City public schools:

  • 3-K, Pre-K and District 75 schools will open on Sept. 21

  • K-8 and K-5 schools will open on Sept. 29

  • Middle and high schools will open on Oct. 1

Last week, the plan to reopen public schools was questioned after revelations that some teachers who had returned to school buildings tested positive for the coronavirus. During a Zoom conference this week, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said that de Blasio, Carranza, City Hall, the schools and the teachers needed more time due to lack of readiness and insurance of safety.

“At this moment, they are not making the grade in terms of getting all this work done…If you ask me if we are ready to open today, I would say we are not,” said Mulgrew.

On Monday, Sept. 14, the mayor announced that close to 17,000 staff members that were tested for COVID-19 yielded 55 positive results (a 0.32% positivity rate). During a virtual live town hall, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams applauded City Hall for recognizing the problem and delaying schools’ re-openings, but said that 55 positive tests is too many among staff who’ve already returned to school buildings. Williams calls the lack of foresight a logistical failure.

“The mayor and chancellor got an assignment over five months ago: to develop and implement a strategy for schools in the fall that would be educationally sound, scientifically supported and centered on the safety of students and staff,” said Williams. “Failure to deliver on that charge, while holding to arbitrary deadlines, has put teachers and administrators, students and parents in a near-impossible situation.

“Re-opening strategies need to be deliberate and methodical, guided by science and framed in equity to minimize risk,” continued Williams. “We need more time for preparation and less focus on a looming, unrealistic and unsafe deadline.”

Last week, the Department of Education’s ventilation reports found that 96% of classrooms had good ventilation systems and 57% of bathrooms were declared to have good ventilation systems.

But due to the recent issues, de Blasio and Carranza announced the debut of a new multi-agency partnership with the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Mental Health, and the Test & Trace Corps.

The DOE COVID Response Situation Room, according to city officials, is designed to facilitate rapid responses to positive coronavirus cases in public schools. The city said it would provide a point-of-contact between schools and agency partners that are tasked with testing, contact tracing and ensuring proper interventions.