The meeting began with President Michael Mulgrew saying we would use the disaster relief fund to help anyone who suffered damage from the storm yesterday. Hopes everyone is safe. Nobody was reporting that we were going to get hit that hard. Hope everyone is okay.
3 major pieces on agenda
2-instructional plan- digital work agreement and
3-vaccine order from the Department of Health and where we are at with that
Take a deep breath as this will be a rough school year ahead. We did not think we would be here in May and June. Mayor didn't make policy decisions in time. We will handle this in spite of incompetence coming from above, it is our school system.
Building Response Teams. We are ahead of where we were last year. 1,380 buildings. We trained 1,100 BRT leaders. Ahead of where we were last year. Offering the training to the other schools. Building Response Teams were the key last year. 3-feet social distancing. City has adopted CDC guidelines. A number of severely overcrowded schools. Last week, city hall and DOE woke up and DOE has plans for extremely overcrowded schools. Schools getting additional rental space for a whole grade. BRT needs to meet with the principal. If there is a problem, you need to let us know. Majority of schools 3-feet social distancing. Mask mandate with zero tolerance. Ventilation. Going from 300,000 to 900,000 to a million students. Maximizing air exchanges in the cafeteria which are also 3-feet. Larger air purifiers going into cafeterias. 100 staff members trained with CO2 monitors that are commercial grade. Let us know and we will measure with CO2 monitor and if there is a problem, we will say it is not good and we have to do something. CO2 at a low level means the air is being exchanged at a proper rate. Higher number means it isn't.
Testing: Department of Health as of September 27 no testing of staff. Every other week a school will have 10% will be tested. In middle schools and high schools, about 50% of students are vaccinated. Every other week for elementary schools where kids can't be vaccinated there should be weekly testing. Under age 12, a positive test means class goes into quarantine. Teacher can work from home like last year, Principal can ask you to come in. Two did last year and we challenged it and they backed down. It gets more complicated where kids are vaccinated. A positive test, no symptoms, kids will continue to go to school. Showing symptoms, ten-day quarantine. Unvaccinated, 10-day quarantine unless they do a test after 3 days and it comes back negative. Thank BRT people next week. During August, Mulgrew traveled around the country for AFT. In some of those states, they don't care about the children or staff. Happy to be back in NYC. We should be setting the standards in how these things are done. Safety people will be running all over the place. They have not had time off since last July. It's going to be a challenging year. We want to make sure we're on top of it.
We wanted academic and emotional diagnostics. DOE will say screening. Starting on September 27, K-10 there will be a literacy and numerous diagnostic. Ongoing training. Thanks Teacher Center. All sorts of teams in schools. Core group to make sure this is going on right. Support AIS team. K-2 will do it on paper. Working on how to put it in a database. If it works the way DOE says, it should be good for all of us. 3-10 is computer based. It is preloaded so it is up to AIS, school, to decide how to get diagnostic done. Database will triage children into levels 1, 2, or 3 or on grade level. Menu to pick what is appropriate. Level 3 will require intense intervention
Social-Emotional well being has to be at the forefront of what we are looking at this year. Public is on our side here. It depends on relationship between children and adults in buildings. Some will show real crisis right away. Remember, only 300,000 were in buildings last year. Wait until November but before that we have something in place we never had before. No more filling out paperwork and waiting for approval. Access to get services right away for students who are displaying crisis in terms of their social and emotional well being. Largest school system in the United States, we can't go through with paperwork. If a child is in crisis and not getting support, those days are over. Call the UFT immediately. Social-emotional screening: we will put out a quick guide on how to do the diagnostic. Must have the right adult who has the relationship with the child. Five-minute screen. Some will be fine and then a level 1, level 2 and level 3. Most who were in school last year should be fine. We will check that children are getting guidance or social worker services and those with intense crisis are getting outside clinical intervention. Parents helped make this real. We can't just go back to school as normal. Screening will start in November. Professional Learning Team will be involved in that. K-2 should be a twenty minute diagnostic for academics. ENL students and special education will get their services. Working on special education agreement.
Review, some might go remote and some might stay in classroom if there is a positive case in a classroom. Digital classroom will be a major piece in next contract. We needed an agreement for this year. Everyone will get 4 hours to set up a remote classroom. It is a stipend. Four hours is the stipend. Teaching kids remote, do what you did last year. For those with students at home and in classroom, if there are two or three kids on Monday Quarantined, you make yourself available for one hour to be available to kids, one to upload work and one hour to be available to kids. Access as long as quarantine is in effect. We sent that out last night.
Vaccine mandate: Take a deep breath. Treat each other as members of this union with respect. We had a mayor who tried to break this union. We dealt with Janus issue. A lot of money out there and they are trying to break this union. When Mulgrew sees members fighting with each other over the vaccine question, realizes it is toxic. Mulgrew knows people in the call say my body, my choice and others say you don't have a right to make me sick. Doctors calling so Mulgrew hopes everyone will be vaccinated. Union movement never faced with mandate like this. Same problem with polio vaccine but we didn't have social media. We are part of a group that fought for public education and we take care of each other. We believe the mayor has the legal authority to mandate it. Our great lawyers who stopped Michael Bloomberg from closing 26 school one year. We waited for the Department of Health issued the order and once they did that, not the mayor, we went into impact bargaining. Mulgrew could jump up and down and make people happy and go into court screaming that this is my body as people have done since 1905 and lose. We all want people to be vaccinated. We went into impact bargaining. We started looking at legal things. We went with MLC. Are we going to give away authority? UFT is up front about belief in vaccines from doctors. We are the most vaccinated workforce in the city and probably the entire state. This is about precedent. Thank God we went into impact bargaining. This becomes personal. Bargaining session on Monday. Religious exemptions, medical exemptions and accomodations important to recognize exemptions. City put forth proposal (position), a person with a medical exemption would use CAR days and be removed from payroll. Same for teacher with a religious exemption. A person with a medical accommodation who is vaccinated and shouldn't be in a school building, city said use your CAR days and be removed from payroll. They wouldn't be fired as that would circumvent 3020a law. Mulgrew asked if these are official positions. We responded by saying there is an impasse and filing for mediation and arbitration. What city did was unacceptable and quite disguisting. Spoke to MLC leadership and now they are overstepping what they can do. We cannot negotiate with people who should be removed from payroll because of their medical condition. We need to challenge order in court. That must be challenged. If we allow someone to say someone's medical condition can be removed from payroll, then everyone in this union can be placed in jeopardy.
Last year we opened up in chaos because mayor didn't make decisions. We kept schools safe and open. We are in the same position again. Decisions weren't being made. We are doing everything at the last minute again. Mulgrew knows that we will get the schools open again. We cannot allow someone to say to us that it doesn't matter, you have no control your medical situation so you will be off of payroll. We have been granted impasse and mediation. We will get a fair process for people who have not taken a vaccine. Full MLC vote next week. You are all in a union together so stop with the social media fighting. Some folks politically this is what they want to do. Support the right to speak but people splitting from the union, you aren't going to get what you want all the time. Enemies try to split us. New political strategy is to divide people in a union. We will challenge all of this. Mandate is probably going to be put on the entire workforce. This challenge will all be public. We sent it out to the press. We gotta respect each other. It should go to arbitration fast. If we just screamed, everyone would have been removed from payroll.
Remember, this is a challenging school year. If only 600,000 to 700,000 come back, the system is in jeopardy. DOE will only say digital instruction, not remote. It's our school system with the children, parents, and communities of NYC. You will meet this challenge. You will be kept updated on what is going on with the city and DOE.
Question: 3-feet where possible. If 26 students and 2 teachers, how is that going to work?
Mulgrew Answer- DOE expecting everyone to adhere to 3-feet and there will be issues here. Tell the BRT team. They will do square footage analysis and bring in CO2 monitor. Some schools have been designated as overcrowded. Get us the information.
Question: thanks Mulgrew- teacher deaths in Texas and Florida. How is the union going to deal with the real possibility that people can get very sick and die from this?
Answer: Our doctors say that if you are vaccinated you have a much lower chance of catching the virus even if you are around unvaccinated. A small number get really ill even if vaccinated and they have highly compromised immune system. We need an accommodation process. Mulgrew spent time in Florida and Georgia. Hoping members with compromised immune systems go through the process to get accommodations. If we do what we did last year, we should be able to be in a good place. This is what keeps Mulgrew up at night. He is biased toward UFT members.
Question: Thanks Mulgrew-As someone who has had COVID and natural immunity has shown to be a better protector than the vaccine, why should I be forced to get a vaccine?
Answer: Department of Health has legal right to get a vaccine. Doctors guiding us say you have a natural immunity and vaccine is better. Can't argue with what's out there on social media. We go by what doctors say. Doctors don't want us telling them. Man helping us today head of infectious disease for major hospital chain. This is an uphill battle as the established law is settled on this but mayor has overstepped what he can do. Please be respectful. You have a right to your body while others have a right to say you can't make them ill. Swayed by doctors who are working with us. We will challenge with the MLC but impact bargaining will probably go faster. If you want, we can get doctors on the phone. They are at the top of their field and they will tell you what they know.
Question: Thank you for what you are doing and the UFT is the greatest union ever. Will we get PPE like last year?
Answer: All of the PPE continues including electrostatic cleaning masks, etc. Time will not come out of CAR if you get COVID at school. Thanks for bringing this up.
Question: Governor not mandating vaccine for state.
Answer: NYC Department of Health has much more authority to order vaccine mandates than state Department of Health. Different local outbreaks in history. State Legislature and state DOH are the only ones who can order vaccine mandates for children.
Question: 10% tested every other week, what happens if nobody signs consent form? What about it kids refuse to wear masks? Last year we sent them home. No remote this year.
Answer: City does not have the right to demand it. Hoping to get city along with parents to increase testing. Consent form cannot be required. Have to go to state at that point. Mayor says zero tolerance, we are waiting for response. It is not insubordination, it is safety. We are working on remote suspension. We can't have a kid running around without a mask putting those at risk. This has to be fixed immediately. We have to get the kid out of the building if he refuses to wear a mask.
Question: Isolation rooms in schools, who is consulted with as there is highly contagious Delta variant?
Answer: No official isolation room, but there should be a room near the nurse. It is like an isolation room.
Question: Partial quarantine in a classroom, make yourself available, are we required to work overtime or during duty-free lunch?
Answer: You can do it at any point during the school day that you are not teaching, you can do that. Some will do the work and won't put in for the two hours. Mulgrew gives an example: upload work on Wednesday have time on Thursday or Friday to meet with kids in quarantine.
Question: Why aren't all students mandated to test?
Answer: Mayor cannot mandate it. What will mayor do if we are short 200,000 kids? If they don't show up, is mayor going to charge educational neglect or have a remote option? We know remote isn't as good but if there is a remote option, then we can compel a consent form for those in the buildings.
Question: D75-Medically fragile student who does not want home instruction person coming into house, what do they do? What about medically fragile staff?
Answer: Medically fragile students with teachers going to five or six students is not safe. Chancellor says it is okay for those at home to be taught remotely. D75 needs to tell Mulgrew what they want. Medically fragile staff, we can't let them be put in jeopardy. Shame on city for trying.
Question: I read last night's email and am still confused on how we are doing it.
Answer: You set up a digital platform and get 4 per session hours. If there are students who go into quarantine in your class, you then use your remote classroom. You load lessons and then you have to make yourself available for at least one hour at your discretion. Student has to be in quarantine for at least one day. Snow days are now gone as we are literally 180 school days. Whole class goes into quarantine, teach whole class remotely.
Question: Students have to remain 3-feet apart, adults 6-feet. Spring break pay from 2020?
Answer: We are in a fight over the first part of the question. On July 1, we filed for arbitration on spring break pay, that is our first arbitration. We should find out the result in a couple of months.
Question: We have poor ventilation and no proper ventilation. Classrooms are small and we can't do 3-feet. You came to the building.
Answer: DOH of NYS never met with us at that site. New governor who is extremely competent and bright and one of the hardest working people he has known in years, we will work with DOH and we will do what needs to be done to get this resolved. Shame on the state for not letting us put PPE at the site and then not trying to resolve this.
We will keep you updated. going into official mediation today at 5:00. We want for people to get accommodations and exemptions. We are challenging DOH order that we all know came from the mayor. We got through the issues from last year like remote and in-person teachers. We don't always get what we want. We're workers who come together. We will fight on behalf of our school system. God bless you and have a great Labor Day weekend.