Friday, July 31, 2020


While much of the focus from the press has been on what will happen if there is a Covid-19 case in a school in the fall when blended learning begins, there has been much less emphasis on what the actual school day will look like for teachers and students. 

Thanks to a reader, we were sent a copy of the Chancellor's Preparing for 2020-21 School Year video for principals. From the video, we learn the now-familiar protocols for what to do if someone tests positive for COVID-19 in a school. The classroom will be shut down for at least a day. While this is inadequate and has been dissected and criticized here, we finally learn from the video some of what the school day will constitute. Dr. Linda Chen is the Chief Academic Officer of the Department of Education. Prior to introducing Chen on the video, the Chancellor pointed out that before this guidance was released, it had been reviewed by the UFT and other advisory groups. 

Dr. Chen talked in some "edubabble" about core instruction, social-emotional learning and such but eventually, she discussed some substance about the actual school day when she referred to programming students and teachers. She said they are working closely with CSA and UFT. She reviewed parameters and flexibilities:

●There will be a daily 30-minute instructional coordination period for teachers before the instructional day begins for students. The time will be used for teachers to plan together. Daily planning periods will help teachers ensure the continuity of learning. Combination of in-person, blended, and full remote. Teachers who are working together to support a group of students. 

●Teaching for remote students will include synchronous and asynchronous instruction for all students. Synchronous instruction will be daily and tied to asynchronous learning activities. For students in blended learning, synchronous and asynchronous should complement each other to create a meaningful learning experience for students.

●To maximize instructional time, lunch will occur for students in class during one of the scheduled instructional periods like breakfast in the classroom. Teachers will still have a duty-free lunch period. 

●6 hour and 50 minute day for teachers.

●Preps can be at the end of the day. Agreement that teacher preps could be 30 minutes that could be done remotely. 

●Class schedules and schedules for synchronous instruction should be posted. 

●Time built-in for 20 minutes of teacher office hours to communicate virtually with students and families.     

Here is my question to our readers: Did anyone from the UFT discuss these rather significant contract modifications with you?


UFT Solidarity finished second to Michael Mulgrew's Unity Caucus in the most recent UFT election. Lydia Howrilka, Solidarity's candidate for UFT President, received thousands of votes in 2019. Lydia is a social studies teacher at Clara Barton High School. She is now the leader of the opposition within the UFT. Her caucus didn't go away after the votes were tallied. They just elected a new Council to help run the organization. I was fortunate enough to be invited to be a guest at their Zoom meeting yesterday. This group is a real caucus. The Council functioned in a democratic way. John Lawhead, one of the founders of ICEUFT, is a Solidarity Council member. 

The Solidarity Council has voted to launch a petition calling for the resignation of Chancellor Richard Carranza

I have two questions:

  • Can anyone have any real confidence in the Chancellor's ability to run the system safely after what happened in the spring? I know of no school system in the country that suffered losses like NYC. UFT Solidarity is calling for real accountability.

The petition:

UFT Solidarity is the premier and main opposition caucus of the UFT. UFT Solidarity came in second place in the 2019 UFT Elections.


The one million school children, their families, and the hundreds of thousands of faculty and staff of NYC Public Schools, deserve competent and trustworthy leadership, more so than ever in these increasingly difficult and uncertain times of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The Mayor and the Chancellor have consistently failed to provide that leadership and instead, continue to create confusion and chaos despite the urging of government representatives, multiple parent and community groups, the teachers union, and other advocates for public education, to work towards a solution that puts the health and safely of our most vulnerable citizens, our children, above and beyond any political pressure to “reopen” and ultimately putting ALL at risk for exposure to COVID-19. 

We are teachers and parents and have read your plan. We still do not feel safe. We should not return to school unless there has been a minimum of 14 days without new cases. Given the fact that schools have had their budgets slashed, we know this will greatly impact their ability to have adequate custodial personnel needed to clean schools during the day and at night. We do not believe that Chancellor Caranza understands this reality.

THEREFORE we, the undersigned are calling for the immediate resignation and removal of New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, and the creation of a non-partisan, multi-level task force to help assist Mayor DeBlasio to achieve the level of competence critical to ensuring the health, safety, and future of the children and families we serve as NYC educators. 

Thursday, July 30, 2020


 Thanks to the reader who sent this out. This is from the NY Daily News in its entirety:

NYC schools roll out plan for reacting to positive COVID cases in reopened buildings

Positive coronavirus tests in city schools this fall will trigger closures of classrooms or whole school buildings while investigators from the city’s Test and Trace Corps probe for evidence of a wider outbreak, officials announced Thursday night.

“We are doing everything in our power to keep kids healthy while ensuring they are getting the education they deserve. These rigorous test and trace protocols will keep our students and staff safe as we start off this new school year,” said Mayor de Blasio.

How city schools will respond to positive COVID cases is a lingering question in the city’s complex reopening plan. The plan, if approved by state officials, would send kids to school in-person on some days while maintaining remote learning on the other days.

Officials say the new regulations will provide clear ground rules for schools dealing with positive cases. Parents, students and staff can self-report positive coronavirus tests to school officials, who will relay the information to the test and trace corps.

If students or staff in the same classroom get sick, that classroom will shut down and transfer to remote learning while disease detectives investigate, and the classroom will remain closed for 14 days after the investigation.

If at least two people in different classes but the same school get sick, the entire building will be shut down for an investigation. The buildings will remain shut for 14 days if investigators can’t pinpoint where and how the cases were transmitted. If they do track down the links, only the classrooms of the infected students or staff will close for two weeks.

Education Department officials said the Test and Trace investigations usually last between one and three days. Families will be contacted by 6 p.m. each night about whether the school will be open the next day, officials added.

City schools staffers are expected to get a COVID test in the days leading up to the September 10 start of classes, and will get priority at the city’s 34 public hospitals, which offer free testing, officials said.

Each school building will be required to create an “isolation room” for kids or staffers who are feeling sick. Not all city schools have full-time nurses, but officials said the rooms will be staffed either by “health professionals” or a “dedicated staff member."

Why does this plan not instill me with confidence that students and staff will be safe?


I saw a piece in Gothamist. The title says it all:

Some highlights:

In a town hall meeting with parents Tuesday, Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza described the “very successful” cleaning process as implemented in the Regional Enrichment Centers the city operates for the children of essential workers.

“There are three or four people who have a spray bottle and a rag with disinfectant, walking 24-7 disinfecting rails, disinfecting knobs on doors, disinfecting common areas,” Carranza said. “We’re spraying and wiping all day long.”

The city has ordered “electrostatic disinfectors” — similar to what the MTA uses to clean the subways — which Carranza said “adds a whole other level of very sophisticated cleaning devices to what we're doing.”

“Add to that the additional sanitary or sanitation supplies that we're providing to every school classroom — disinfecting wipes, disinfectant sprays, towels, pumps with disinfectant,” he added. “So we are very much preparing for a very cleanly environment in every one of our schools.”

The head of the custodian engineers union pointed out this level of cleaning likely requires more staff, yet there hasn’t been any additional funding allocated yet and a hiring freeze remains in place.

“The problem is, I don't see that the budgets they provided to us are sufficient to provide the extra services that they are requesting of us to open – all the cleaning and disinfecting“, said Robert Troeller, Business Manager of the Local 891 custodian engineer union, in a phone interview. “It’s basically the same funding levels for staff that we had last fiscal year. Yet the staff is expected to do all this extra work. And I just don't know what's going to happen.”

There are about 8,000 employees who work in the public school system as custodians, handy persons, fire persons and engineers, Troeller said, and the city’s $640 million budget for this department remains the same as last year.

“I do realize it's going to be a little bit less crowded with a third or half the children (there) depending on the building. But to simply expect the same crew to accomplish all this extra work. It's very difficult. Very difficult and very stressful,” Troeller said. “Then, on top of that, they intend to feed the children in the classrooms all of their meals. Well, suddenly every room is the cafeteria. The amount of cleaning required increases tremendously.”

A little later:

A custodian at a large public school building in Brooklyn, who asked to stay anonymous because he wanted to keep his job, said there aren’t clear expectations yet: "I don't even know right now exactly what they want us to do."

A deep cleaning typically means the custodians will do their regular sweeping, mopping, taking out of trash, but also disinfect every surface: desks, tables, seats and seat backs, door knobs, he said. Back in March when schools first shut down, they were doing this with spray bottles with a bleach solution.

He says his school has enough cleaning solution to get to or through the winter, though that's probably not true of other schools. "If I have to, I'll go buy a bottle of bleach. Or I'll get $25 from my coworkers and go to Costco and get a case.”

The task at hand seemed enormous, he said.

"We're trying to wrap our minds around it ... are we going to get extra hours, extra man power?” he wonders. “We're going to try to do our thing, best we can."

Any thoughts on what the head of the union and a Brooklyn custodian stated?

Wednesday, July 29, 2020


This is from the Education Week Blog:

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious diseases expert, told educators in a virtual town hall that when it comes to reopening school buildings for in-person instruction, there are still many unanswered questions about how the coronavirus is spread by children.

"As you try to get back to school, we're going to be learning about that," he said. "In many respects, unfortunately, though this may sound a little scary and harsh—I don't mean it to be that way—is that you're going to actually be part of the experiment of the learning curve of what we need to know. Remember, early on when we shut down the country as it were, the schools were shut down, so we don't know the full impact, we don't have the total database of knowing what there is to expect."

Further on:

"The default position is you should try, to the best of your ability, to get children back in school, but you've got to put the however in there," Fauci said. "The however means you have to be concerned always about the safety, the health, and the welfare of the children, the teachers, and the personnel."

As for the accoutrements for work:

What protective personal equipment should teachers be wearing?

"There is not an absolute pristine, perfect answer to that question," Fauci said. But at minimum, teachers should wear a mask and something to protect their eyes, which are also susceptible areas for virus transmission. That could be goggles or face shields, he said.

Teachers should "possibly" also wear gloves, he said, adding that washing hands frequently (or using hand sanitizer if there's not easy access to a sink) is just as effective.

"Based on what we know now, should the teachers be dressing up in full PPE like someone who is an intensive care unit? I'd have to say the answer to that is no," he said, adding that the risk is relative for teachers since they don't know if they will be interacting with someone who has the coronavirus.

It would be reasonable, but not essential, for teachers to wear something they can dispose or wash immediately after work, so they don't have to bring their clothes home, he said. Some teachers have been purchasing scrubs for this purpose.

We learned yesterday that UFT President Michael Mulgrew is down to three unanswered bullet points remaining for the reopening in the fall and he's not promising anything on further accommodations to work from home. After what happened in the spring where 75 NYC school based staff and another dozen School Safety Agents died of COVID-19 and even Mulgrew admitted it was logical to think some of those 87 were infected at work, it is sometimes hard to believe this is the direction the conversation is headed. I should know better by now.

I keep hearing anecdotals of teachers practically begging doctors to find anything in their chart so they can work exclusively from home. It shouldn't have to be like this. Welcome to Dr Fauci's experiment.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020


I know I shouldn't even bother getting agitated when I see another email from UFT President Michael Mulgrew but I still do. 

On the same day as the AFT is talking strike, the UFT puts out this:

●Accommodations: We are in talks with the DOE about what can be done for UFT members who do not have underlying medical conditions themselves, but who live with and care for those who do. We can’t promise anything, but we clearly understand this concern and are working on it.

This is the degree to which the UFT has fallen. We no longer make demands. We work on things. Am I being too harsh here? 

In my humble opinion if we were seriously and credibly  planning for a possible walkout from unsafe school buildings, we could have a great deal more leverage with City Hall and the Department of Ed. 

The full email:

The latest developments

Dear UFT Member,

I want to thank the thousands of you who participated in our telephone town hall last Tuesday. When we come together as a union to support each other and to fight for what we know is necessary, we are unstoppable, even during this unprecedented crisis.

City Hall and the Department of Education owe us a comprehensive plan for reopening school buildings. We will carefully analyze that plan to determine if it is safe for our members and our students to return to their buildings in September.

Because there's so much going on, I will be regularly communicating with all of you about what we are working on and any new developments.

Here's what we have to report:

●Accommodations: The DOE’s reasonable accommodation process is up and running. There is no deadline — you can apply at any time. But we are asking members to apply by July 31 to keep things moving. We worked with the DOE to streamline and speed up the process.

●Ventilation: The DOE now has a budget and a plan for checking building ventilation plans, upgrading air filters, and checking airflow. We have identified school buildings with ventilation systems that may not be adequate and will be inspecting them.

●Other safety measures: The DOE has ordered disinfectants, masks and other supplies and has begun implementing other safety measures, such as new entry protocols and plexiglass partitions for main office and school safety agent desks in common areas. Each school will have a building response team tasked with making sure that schools have the necessary materials and that the agreed-upon protocols and policies are not only in place but being followed.

Here’s what we are still pressing the DOE to answer for us:

●Accommodations: We are in talks with the DOE about what can be done for UFT members who do not have underlying medical conditions themselves, but who live with and care for those who do. We can’t promise anything, but we clearly understand this concern and are working on it.

●Remote instruction: We are in talks with the DOE about what the remote instructional day looks like and how it will be staffed. Whether we are fully remote or adopt a blended learning model in the fall, remote instruction will account for the majority of most students' educational time. One group of children will work with the same cadre of remote instructors, but whether those instructors are from the child’s home school or from a more centralized pool of educators is still unclear.

●Testing and tracing: We are working with the DOE, the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators and city agencies including NYC Health + Hospitals to establish clear protocols for what happens at a school if a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19. Any school building that re-opens will need an isolation room; a school nurse who can trigger the testing and tracking response in the event a child or adult is ill; a communication plan for alerting families and staff; and a clear closure plan. The medical experts we work with are also recommending everyone do two things, regardless of whether we go back into school buildings or not. First, get a flu shot this season. Second, get a COVID antibody test as a baseline.

As I said at the town hall, whether or not the DOE gets it together enough for school buildings to reopen, a large part of our teaching and support services for the foreseeable future will be delivered remotely. So while we work to make school building safe, we have to simultaneously work to make sure our remote capabilities are the best they can be.

We want to get back to our school buildings, but we want to return safely. We need assurances that our school system is using the same level of precaution as every other government agency or corporation in New York City that is bringing people back to work.

There's broken trust between City Hall and the UFT because of how things played out in March. So we are rightfully cautious - there is too much at stake.

Together, we will fight to keep each other and our students safe. We have each other's backs.


Michael Mulgrew
UFT President


The AFT Convention is occurring today and tomorrow virtually. While it will mostly be a Democratic Party lovefest with Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi scheduled to speak, some important business is taking place. The AFT is talking tough on strikes over school reopening plans.

A national teachers’ union says its members can strike to ensure schools reopen safely.
The second-largest teachers’ union in the United States announced on Tuesday that it would support its 1.7 million members if they choose to strike in districts and states that move to reopen classrooms without adequate health and safety measures.

The union, the American Federation of Teachers, said strikes should be a “last resort.” But the resolution approved by the organization’s executive council gives educators and their union representatives additional muscle in negotiations over what would constitute adequate protection for teachers and school employees.

The union is pushing for schools to wait to reopen classrooms until coronavirus transmission rates in a community fall below 1 percent and average daily test positivity rates stay below 5 percent — something that very few places have achieved. A recent New York Times analysis found that only two of the nation’s 10 largest school districts could reopen under the latter threshold.

The union also wants effective contact tracing in place in regions that reopen schools, mask requirements for students and teachers, updated ventilation systems in school buildings and procedures to maintain six feet of distance between individuals.

We will fight on all fronts for the safety of our students and their educators,” the union’s president, Randi Weingarten, said in a speech at the organization’s annual convention, which is being held online this week. She said that if the federal government can support the cruise industry and hedge funds during the coronavirus crisis, “they sure as hell can help working families, and can help educators ensure our kids get the education they need.”

Some online activists have been pushing for even stricter guidelines than those recommended by the A.F.T., with some educators demanding that schools stay shuttered until there are no new cases in a region for 14 days.

Education leaders have said they need hundreds of billions of dollars to implement measures that would allow schools to reopen safely. On Monday, Senate Republicans introduced a stimulus package that fell far short of what Democrats and organized labor have proposed. The legislation would provide $70 billion for K-12 education, but condition two-thirds of that money on schools reopening at least partially in person, a priority for President Trump, who sees it as key to reviving the nation’s economy by allowing parents to work.

The A.F.T.’s authorization vote leaves it up to local chapters to make the decision on whether to plan a strike. The Florida Education Association has already sued Gov. Ron DeSantis and other officials to prevent school buildings from reopening in that state, where virus cases are surging. On Tuesday, Florida again broke its daily record for deaths, reporting 186 fatalities. It also reported 9,230 cases.

(Sorry most of the links in the Times story did not come through. This is sometimes tricky on smartphone. I did make sure the original link and the one calling for no new cases in an area for 14 days before schools open are included.)

Monday, July 27, 2020


Barbara Bowen is the President of the Professional Staff Congres, the CUNY faculty union. She is cited in a Chief Leader piece reacting to CUNY's plan to have some in person learning for the fall term:

“I have absolutely no confidence that the CUNY administration will keep our members safe during on-campus work. CUNY's record to date does not justify confidence,” she said in a statement.

Why can't UFT President Michael Mulgrew make this kind of statement?

Does anyone out there have any confidence that the DOE will have the capability to make in person learning safe in many of our public school buildings?

For more details on the PSC concerns about CUNY reopening campuses, read on.

In a letter to CUNY’s Coronavirus Planning Task Force written late last month, Ms. Bowen noted previous health and safety hazards across CUNY campuses that had either been left unaddressed or which CUNY administration failed to notify staff and students about, including a lack of running water in bathrooms at City College and a rat infestation at York College.

She also pointed to years of disinvestment at Brooklyn College and Lehman College that had resulted in missing floor and ceiling tiles, exposed wires, out-of-order bathroom stalls, and peeling paint becoming common sights.

Ms. Bowen also said that CUNY had failed to comply with a state requirement for employers to develop and conspicuously post a COVID-19 Health and Safety Plan that included details about what was being done to comply with safety guidelines, including capacity limits, providing personal protective equipment and social-distancing requirements. So far, the plan hasn’t been posted on any campuses, according to the PSC.


Former Jamaica HS colleague J Bryan McGeever has an op-ed on reopening schools in the NY Daily News. I copy it in full below. He makes some great points. I also learned from the piece that Bryan's wife Tiffany, who was a strong member of the UFT Chapter Committee for years at Jamaica HS, is now at Midwood HS. I digress. The op-ed:

How can schools be safe? Partial reopening for all students creates breeding ground for coronavirus

I’ve been a teacher in New York City schools for 16 years. In late June, my principal gave us permission to enter our building to remove personal items and secure our classrooms for the summer. It was the first time we’d been back since schools were closed due to coronavirus in March. The last theme I’d covered was still waiting for me on the whiteboard when I entered the room: “The Consequences of Change.”

My English class is a former shop room. The floor has rust marks from the heavy equipment that was once here. It’s also located in a basement, the tiniest sliver of natural light visible from a sewer grate, and has a tendency to grow dank and moldy. How can the mayor possibly ensure clean air for this room in the fall?

As it stands right now, city schools are scheduled for a partial reopening in September, a hybrid of remote learning on some days, with thousands of students entering 1,800 different schools in shifts on others. An endeavor that would demand such remarkable levels of timing, precision and effort, it’s no longer plausible to entertain.

If this is truly our plan, then where was the tractor-trailer filled with Plexiglass to install for social distancing when I visited my school? Why aren’t there materials arriving at schools throughout the five boroughs? My daughter’s school in Brooklyn is a veritable ghost town — all five stories.It’s now late July. When exactly does the preparation begin? If the mayor and his chancellor go ahead with this proposal, it’s going to be a debacle.

Under normal conditions, every September through June, each member of my household wakes up and reports to a public school. I teach at August Martin in South Jamaica. My wife is at Midwood, and my daughter attends PS 139 in Brooklyn. These buildings are old, beautiful, and built to last. They’re also roiling cauldrons of sickness the moment they become filled with thousands of people.

Since my daughter started pre-K years ago, the three of us have never been so sick in our lives. Each member of my family catches something at school and then brings it back to the nest. The illness bounces from person to person until it eventually grows bored with us and moves on.

But when the pandemic hit New York everything changed. We were ordered to vacate our schools, and guess what? My family’s been cured. Our constant colds, cases of flu and pesky critters have disappeared — five straight months of perfect health that we haven’t seen in years.

I haven’t had the vile taste of cold medicine on my lips since March. We no longer order tissues in bulk, and no one cares that the thermometer has been missing for weeks.

If coronavirus is still slithering its way through New York in September, it will find its way inside our schools immediately. The only solution is to stay out of them. Remote learning is far from perfect, but at least it’s safe.

There are layers to this problem, of course. Special needs students must receive their services. There are also children who need to eat and thousands who don’t have access to the internet. So far the most intelligent suggestion comes from a parent whose Op-Ed in The New York Times suggests that we keep key buildings open solely for these kids.

In this scenario, every child receives their services and everyone keeps their dignity. Students and teachers who feel unsafe are at home doing remote learning. I would gladly teach at one of these buildings in the fall.

During the first few months of the pandemic, my neighborhood in Brooklyn would applaud, whistle, and whoop every night in tribute to our essential workers. It was a wonderful way to express grief, give thanks, and burn some energy, but I never want to do it again.

McGeever teaches English in Queens and lives with his family in Brooklyn

Sunday, July 26, 2020


City Councilmember Robert Holden has not forgotten about grade fixing at Maspeth High School. He wrote a letter to the Chancellor and the Mayor calling for action to be taken.

Holden's letter is copied in its entirety next to SueEdelman's article on Maspeth HS in the NY Post. (We copy Holden's conclusion below.)

The background from the Post piece:

A year after a group of teachers came forward with evidence of academic fraud at Maspeth High School, officials say the extensive investigation has stalled because of COVID-19 despite damning conclusions.

“Several staff members appear to be in deep trouble. Investigators have substantiated their involvement in the scandal,” a person with knowledge of the findings told The Post.

The probe was nearly complete before Mayor Bill de Blasio shut school buildings in March, sources said.

Whistleblowers described the “Maspeth Minimum,” as teachers and students dubbed the internal policy. They said administrators pressured teachers to pass failing students, give answers during Regents exams, and hold fake classes so kids who skipped class or did no work could get credits — and maintain the school’s stellar 99 percent graduation rate.

Further on:

A current Maspeth teacher said the school  continued to use shady practices before the COVID shutdown — including an after-school “humanities” class with 30 students enrolled that rarely met.

“It’s an easy way out,” the teacher said, referring to credits toward graduation.

The whistleblowers first brought evidence to City Councilman Robert Holden (D-Queens). He denounced what he called Maspeth’s  “gangster culture,” in which the administrators threatened to retaliate against staffers who did not fall in line.

Holden immediately alerted de Blasio, asking the city Department of Education to remove Principal Khurshid Abdul-Mutakabbir pending a probe, but he remained in place.

“We’ve taken these allegations extremely seriously since day one and have devoted substantial resources to this investigation,” City Hall spokeswoman Jane Meyer said. ”We have no tolerance for academic dishonesty and our students deserve better.”

If anyone believes that line, there is also a bridge for sale in Brooklyn. The offense at the DOE appears to be getting caught, not the actual cheating. 

Councilmember Holden is quoted toward the end of the article:

Holden told The Post, “The fact that we are approaching a year with no visible discipline whatsoever is a barometer of how corrupt the DOE system has become. Unfortunately cheating is so widespread that it has become the norm and is actually encouraged.”
Holden gets the last word here. This is the concluding paragraph of his letter:

I have no doubt that during the COVID-19 pandemic, online learning led to even more grade fraud at this school. The gangster culture of threatening teachers into submission and fudging numbers to make the school appear to be a top-performer must come to an end. While I'm sure that you cannot divulge the details of an ongoing investigation, I urge you to conclude the investigation, release a full report, and take immediate disciplinary action against the administrators who have permanently damaged the education of our students. 


Thanks to a reader for sending this Metro Focus interview with Michael Mulgrew from last week. Please watch and listen carefully.

From the trancript:






No follow up on what the UFT would do if the Union does not get questions answered to the UFT's satisfaction.

The conclusion,  again from the transcript:




















*20%. 60% WOULD BE REMOTE.





* I heard 40% which would make sense.

Saturday, July 25, 2020


Thanks to David Irons for sending me an essay from The Atlantic written by legendary rock star Dave Grohl. Grohl's mother is a retired high school English teacher. In the piece, Dave draws on his mom's wisdom and his own to conclude that learning  for now should continue fully remotely during the pandemic:

I wouldn’t trust the U.S. secretary of percussion to tell me how to play “Smells Like Teen Spirit” if they had never sat behind a drum set, so why should any teacher trust Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to tell them how to teach, without her ever having sat at the head of a class? (Maybe she should switch to the drums.) Until you have spent countless days in a classroom devoting your time and energy to becoming that lifelong mentor to generations of otherwise disengaged students, you must listen to those who have. Teachers want to teach, not die, and we should support and protect them like the national treasures that they are. For without them, where would we be?

May we show these tireless altruists a little altruism in return. I would for my favorite teacher. Wouldn’t you?

Grohl could add Bill de Blasio, Andrew Cuomo, Joel Klein, Dennis Walcott, Bill Gates, Arne Duncan, and so many others to a long list of education decionmakers who wouldn't know what to do in a classroom but tell teachers what to do.

Having a musician I admire on our side is satisfying to this blogger. South Bronx School and Reality Based Educator are two other NY ed bloggers who I seem to recall, without looking back, mentioned rockers in their posts. I think for SBS there were Rush pieces and RBE I believe used Ian Hunter in blog posts. I like it when the education and rock world intersect.

Last year, when my family took a road trip to Chicago to visit relatives, I lobbied to stop off in Cleveland on the drive home at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I had such a great time. Kids loved the garage where they got to play so they put up with me attempting to explain some of the memorabilia in the exhibits. 

When Grohl writes about his own children in the Atlantic essay, I feel a sort of parental bond along with being grateful for his support for teachers. He explains the limitations of virtual education and includes references to his kids:

Remote learning comes with more than a few of its own complications, especially for working-class and single parents who are dealing with the logistical problem of balancing jobs with children at home. Uneven availability of teaching materials and online access, technical snafus, and a lack of socialization all make for a less-than-ideal learning experience. But most important, remote setups overseen by caretakers, with a teacher on the other end doing their best to educate distracted kids who prefer screens used for games, not math, make it perfectly clear that not everyone with a laptop and a dry-erase board is cut out to be a teacher. That specialized skill is the X factor. I know this because I have three children of my own, and my remote classroom was more Welcome Back, Kotter than Dead Poets Society. Like I tell my children, “You don’t really want daddy helping, unless you want to get an F!” Remote learning is an inconvenient and hopefully temporary solution. But as much as Donald Trump’s conductor-less orchestra would love to see the country prematurely open schools in the name of rosy optics (ask a science teacher what they think about White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany’s comment that “science should not stand in the way”), it would be foolish to do so at the expense of our children, teachers, and schools.

I can so identify with the "distracted kids who prefer screens for games, not math" line.

Friday, July 24, 2020


CSA is the Council of Supervisors and Administrators,  the principal's and assistant principal 's union. It is a low bar for CSA to sound more forceful than the UFT. You decide if CSA President Mark Cannizzaro was stronger than Mulgrew.

Dear CSA Member,

As we near the end of July, it is abundantly clear that the DOE has not provided you with the guidance and relevant information necessary for you to effectively plan for the opening of school buildings and offices in the fall. You have done everything the DOE has asked of you from the onset of this pandemic, and your frustration with this alarming lack of direction is beyond understandable.. CSA knows that without clear guidance and support on protocols and issues of safety, staffing, and programming, your tasks are unrealistic and insurmountable. We know that for the benefit of those you lead, you will continue to forge paths forward, to be creative and to search for solutions to seemingly intractable problems. Yet, through no fault of your own, as each day passes without clear guidance and safety assurances, it becomes less likely that we will be ready to reopen in September.

At this moment, many members are also dealing with the fallout of a poorly implemented summer school program, CEP completion, an ill-advised mandated three-day professional development program, and selection of a hybrid model of instruction for the fall. Our suggestion that the professional development be postponed fell on deaf ears as the DOE felt that it was too valuable to miss. Your feedback suggests otherwise. I find it hard to believe and extremely misguided that you are being asked to concern yourself with anything other than reopening plans for the remainder of the summer. To that end, we have advised the DOE that you do not have the necessary information to submit a proposed model for hybrid instruction by the end of the day tomorrow and argued they push the date back. As a result, they have agreed to do so, and plans now do not have to be submitted until August 14. It is our hope and expectation that DOE uses this time efficiently and appropriately guides, directs, and answers you in a manner it has not done to this point.

Recently, the DOE released a set of FAQs around reopening. Unfortunately, the DOE’s FAQs do not address the real and practical concerns our team has surfaced centrally, nor many questions you have raised in the field. Therefore, CSA compiled relevant FAQs for school leaders and administrators and will now forward them to the DOE. These are questions that are imperative for the DOE to answer if it expects you to plan a September opening. You can find the FAQs here (link is for members only). We will insist the DOE provide answers and we will share with you as they do.

Ultimately it is the responsibility of the DOE to set policy and provide resources required to implement their plans. Although this should not have to be said, no less repeated, it is also the responsibility of the DOE to clearly communicate those plans to you directly. Unless and until the Chancellor’s team has done so, no plans are final or definite despite what you may have heard.

We recognize the need for frequent communication during this time and will continue to keep you informed of accurate and up-to-date information in a number of ways. We have held virtual meetings in every district, been in regular communication with our district/borough chairs as well as our executive board members who represent you, and we have taken great care to provide verified and timely information via regular Member Updates. Additionally, I will lead a citywide virtual CSA meeting in the coming days, the details of which will be shared imminently.

In the meantime, please know we are advocating relentlessly on your behalf for strong safety protocols as prerequisite to opening, clear guidance around programming and scheduling, and sufficient staffing to implement both in-person and remote instruction. You deserve nothing less, and we will not stop fighting to support you.

I look forward to speaking with you directly very soon,

In Unity,

Mark Cannizzaro

Thursday, July 23, 2020


The NY Post covered Michael Mulgrew's Town Hall on Tuesday afternoon. Everyone knows that the one tough question was what are we going to do if the schools are deemed safe by the city but not by the Union. Mulgrew's answer is in Selim Algar and Gabrielle Fonrouge's article:

Union officials are prepared to fight back if they think the reopening of Big Apple schools is being done unsafely, union boss Michael Mulgrew said Tuesday.

“All I am going to say on this call is that I am preparing for what to do if they do that,” the UFT chief said during an afternoon town hall Tuesday by phone, according to a Department of Education source who heard the remarks.

They’re prepared to take court action, protest and other organizing actions but aren’t currently discussing a strike, union sources told The Post Wednesday.

Thank you for getting that clarification NY Post. The UFT as usual will dither and delay but in the end will do next to nothing if the city/DOE insists that school staff report to buildings. If Mulgrew and his followers are not ready to talk about  refusing to go into unsafe buildings now, which would not be illegal in my opinion as it is not illegal to refuse to go into a building where you could threaten your own safety or the safety of the students, when are they going to have that discussion?

The UFT is planning only to delay on what to do about the fall. Mulgrew told us at the Tuesday Town Hall that he plans to wait until the end of August or the beginning of September to decide if buildings are safe or not. That is way too late. The UFT has done nothing to mobilize its members in a generation to do more than send a tweet, sign a petition or make a phone call. This union is not going to suddenly turn on a dime in September and actually be militant if and when school buildings are deemed unsafe by staffers. 

UFTers you will more than likely be on your own in deciding whether to enter a school building if you can't get a medical accommodation and you don't believe your building is safe. After what happened in March with over 75 NYC school-based workers dying from Covid-19, the UFT not preparing members right now for the worst-case scenario described above, where the city says it's safe but the UFT disagrees, is unconscionable.

In Illinois, Chicago Public Schools have experienced the pandemic but nothing near what NYC schools went through in terms of death and infections from COVID-19. Nevertheless, the Chicago Teachers Union is being proactive in terms of the fall. Yesterday, they started the fight for full remote learning. 

The Chicago Teachers Union held a car caravan Wednesday morning to protest the hybrid learning model proposed by Chicago Public Schools in the fall.

That plan would mean a mix of remote learning and in-person courses.

The caravan began circling around a charter school in the city's Lincoln Park neighborhood around 9 a.m. They then traveled to Chicago Public Headquarters in the loop, while the Board of Education held their weekly virtual meeting.

According to CTU leaders, the District's hybrid school plan "falls short on safety." Leaders said CPS has not put enough money into cleaning and janitorial improvements.

“Providing us 40,000 tubs of sanitizing wipes? So I get two tubs of wipes? That might get me through a few lunch periods," Erin Lynch, an art and special education teacher at CPS, said. "We ask that CPS finally put students' and staff's safety and health first."

CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates said that city officials appear to care more about protecting bar patrons and fitness enthusiasts. She added that Friday’s restrictive action on those businesses is more stringent than this September’s plan for pods of 15 kids.

“You see the heat maps of cases. Our positivity rate is going up in Illinois -- no playgrounds, no indoor dining. We have that and yet we are talking about opening schools in this moment? It just seems completely upside down," Gates said.

Stacy Davis-Gates is a union leader that we can only dream about having in NYC. 

From Chicago Tribune

Tuesday, July 21, 2020


I monitored most of yesterday's UFT Virtual Town Hall and heard plenty about how the DOE/City are not ready yet to safely open school buildings. So, what will the UFT do if, as we all know will more than likely happen, numerous school buildings are not ready to open safely in September?

Here is the most important question and answer from the Town Hall:

Question: ...DOE says schools will be ready. If they aren't, what happens?
Answer: We are preparing to do whatever we have to do if the schools are not safe and the city disagrees with us.

Why is Mulgrew so afraid to say we will tell people schools are unsafe so they will be putting their lives on the line unnecessarily if they enter school buildings? 

Is Mulgrew scared it will be called a strike if we refuse to enter dangerous buildings during a pandemic?  Is his main concern the UFT might lose their precious automatic dues checkoff? 

It isn't a strike to protect your health or the safety of the students. In March, we quoted from the UFT's Handbook for Chapter Leaders in telling members they do not have to work in unsafe schools.

Self-help is when an employee is insubordinate by defying an order from a supervisor. Normally, a teacher should obey an order that violates the Contract and then grieve.  However, the Handbook provides three justifications for an employee to be insubordinate. Two of them apply to our current situation:

First, the employee has a reasonable belief that carrying out the order will endanger the employee's health.

Second, carrying out the order will threaten the safety of others.

Nobody would be refusing to work as all would be willing to teach remotely. UFTers would just be saying no to work in dangerous buildings. Trying to turn a school into an antiseptic hospital type setting seems rather unrealistic and quite expensive. Why take that risk when there is a safe, remote learning alternative? 

Even if refusing to work in school buildings is called a strike:

To hell with the Taylor Law prohibition against strikes!

Teacher and student lives are much more important than the Taylor Law. 

Yes, I know UFTers would lose two days pay for each day on strike if any action was ruled a strike but I will repeat:

It isn't a strike to refuse to go into an unsafe work environment! 

Over 75 NYC school employees passed away in the spring from Covid-19 and even Mulgrew admitted it is logical to conclude some were infected at work. There is plenty of evidence that asymptomatic spread is real. Therefore, this blog declares:

Not one more needless UFT death in the fall.

Teachers are not soldiers and don't get combat pay. Nobody got a teaching license to risk their life or the lives of the students and all of our respective families to go into school buildings in the midst of a pandemic.


The person who put me on the call said that what I missed in Mulgrew's Report because I got in late (not easy connecting) was this basically:

We will be fully remote or 60% remote in the fall. The fourteen-day average for positive testing to reopen school buildings needs to be less than 5% positive. We are now at around 1% positive. However, so much needs to be done to be able to get it right to open up safely. 

When I was put on, which was toward the end of President Mulgrew's report, Mulgrew was talking about preparing for remote learning or blended learning. He said there would have to be childcare whether buildings were opened or not. This is not about just children, it is about us. We will continue to be responsible. We will have to call the question by the end of August or the beginning of September. We have to see if there is a plan and if it will work. 


Question: Medical accommodation, if you have any of the conditions, can it be denied? Will you still be attached to your school if working fully remote?

Mulgrew Answer: If you have a medical accommodation, you stay on the Table of Organization of your school. DOE has not said no to anyone with documentation. No excessing if you have accommodation.

Question: What progress has been made in hiring school nurses?
Answer: There has to be a nurse in every school. We are not moving off that position. Thank you to the nurses. City Council said there will be a nurse in every school. Two different titles, DOE only hires at the lower pay level. 

Question about contact tracing?
Answer: School system should have our own contact tracers. One of the doctors is a special ed teacher in NYC. His recommendation is if anyone tests positive in a school, we have to do contact tracing quickly. If the infection rate remains low and we use proper PPE, we should be okay. 

Question: Principal said kids don't need to wear masks as long as they are seated in class?
Answer: In NYC it is pretty clear but if kid has disability and can't wear a mask, then we would have to adjust the PPE for the teachers and whoever was working with that child. Tell principal we work for DOE and not the State Ed Department.

Question: Buyouts, what's going to happen?
Answer: We are negotiating at the MLC (umbrella group of city government employee unions) level. We won't have anything until we see what the federal government will do. City and state budgets have been decimated. State about $16 billion in the red. City is about $9 billion in the red. Mayor threatened 22,000 layoffs. If he lays people off, he can not open school buildings.

Question: What are the class sizes? Will each teacher be responsible for a kid's live and remote instruction?
Answer: If you have 30 kids, that becomes three classes. Reporting to building every day to teach three cohorts. Schools have to input curriculum and scope and sequence. In middle or high school or specialty area, a teacher can get a mix of a class or two of in-school instruction and still do remote learning.

Question: Teachers that live in Nassau or Suffolk and need childcare for their own kids? Teacher teaching in school teaching cohort A and B?
Answer: Curriculum and scope and sequence have to be allied so when your cohort is on remote, the remote teacher can take over. If you are teaching elements of a story with A, then remote has to be teaching elements of a story too. We should have been working on this for months. This is why things will get bogged down. 

Question: If I was to get Covid, will that impact my CAR? Will I come back to live or remote?
Answer: Test positive for Covid, CAR not impacted. If after a time from 14-28 days, you need negative tests to return to school. 

Question: If I have no air conditioning, how can I wear a mask and how can kids?
Answer: Yes on mask. Airflow is the key. Windows need to be open. If airflow is not enough, we won't use rooms such as inner rooms in certain buildings that don't have windows. Old buildings should be okay for airflow.

Question: Who is responsible for checking medical conditions at school? Students have the ability to opt-out and go remote as year goes by, will teachers have the same option?
Each building has a building response team. We want the school to form a team. Mulgrew will come remotely or in person if help is needed. Safety cannot be broken down. Isolation rooms, teachers volunteered in certain schools. Due to lack of leadership, there was a problem in certain other schools. Building Response Team will be in charge of this and tailoring the safety to guidelines. We have had good conversations with DOE and CSA about this.
Two options: With a medical accommodation, you work from home. We streamlined the process for medical accommodations with DOE. Besides that, you have to take an unpaid leave if we open buildings.

Question: Small talk about baseball. DOE says schools will be ready. If they aren't, what happens?
Answer: We are preparing to do whatever we have to do if the schools are not safe and the city disagrees with us.

Question: Getting the Covid-19 test today, wait two weeks for results. How can that be expedited? What can UFT do about this as a union? Went to City MD.
Answer: Because of what we went through, it depends on the institution that you go to. If it goes to a national lab, it will take two weeks. Need to go to a place so test goes to a local lab. One lab says they can test everyone within a ten-day period and have results back before school starts. Nationally, capacity is not there and it will take fourteen days. We need results faster.

Question: Remote teaching and people in their subject area for middle schools. Can they require me to teach what I am not licensed for (performing arts teacher)? 
Answer: Performing arts teachers did amazing work to figure out remote type of performing arts teaching. It is important that students need the arts to be creative. They should teach in the licensed subject area.

Question: Are we going to be expected to do a year-long curriculum and be held accountable for that?
Answer: We need curriculum and scope and sequence. There will be a system in place where we can intervene right away. Better to go deeper than broader.

Question: Kids who can't wear masks, do parents need documentation?
Answer: It must be a disability or medical condition. 75% of parents want to send their kids back to school. 25% yes go back, 25% say no don't go back until there is a safe and effective vaccine, 50% in middle want their kids back but only if it is safe and their questions are addressed.

Question: Lump sum payment status?
Answer: No reason to touch it now. Concerns about our raise, we received it. If the Heroes Act doesn't come through, I don't see how we get through the next two or three years without layoffs. When we see what the Heroes Act has, we can plan better. A vaccine won't end this. Many switching to remote permanently for this year. Let's see what happens with the Heroes Act.

Question: What about District 75 teachers who deal with students who need diaper changes?
Answer: PPE will be different in D75 settings as compared to most classrooms. We need to see a plan put in front of us. Nurses, school based and those who work in hospitals, showing how to use PPE properly. If we get back to any in-school teaching, we have to train as if we are in a hospital setting.

Question: Teacher works in a D75 school, how will people who work in an office be protected?
Answer: Get masks and plexiglass. Airflow has to be proper also.

Question: Parents who need to go to work will send kids to school with fevers and they give them a little Tylenol? Spring break pay?
 Answer: Every school will have a nurse. Spring break days: Three unions involved are going to arbitration for full pay for the 7 days. 

Question: 33 year Phys Ed teacher in a shared building. No windows and teaches 30-40 per class. What are the protocols?
Answer: Need to look at ventilation protocols. Must be social distancing. Lots of calisthenics. Combine phys ed between different schools in the same building. Look for solutions. 

Question: How long do I put in the accommodation for?
Answer: For as long as the medical crisis lasts.

Question: Chancellor gave vague answers on cleaning?
Answer: We put our masks on and meet with School Construction Authority people and School Facilities people. They have been smart about buying what is needed. Need cleaning protocols in place. In March, they said they would deep clean every evening and they lied. Now, Building Response Team must make sure things are done immediately. At this point, School Facilities agree that after a phone call, things will get fixed. If not, a question on whether a school will open. 

Question: Deadline is July 31 for accommodation, what if you find out if you are pregnant. Can you put in after July 31?
Answer: July 31 is to fast track accommodation. Can file for the accommodation at any point. Call the UFT and we will tell DOE why something is happening. Certainly, if you find out you are pregnant on August 5, you can apply for an accommodation then.

Question: Have my own kids. What do we do?
Answer: We have issues with the way the Department of Health and mayor handled this in March. Many of us are taking care of other family members. We don't know how this will go when it comes to crunch time. Let us know and we will see what we can do to help you.

Question: Remote vs classroom teacher. Where are these remote teachers supposed to be coming from?
Answer: Average class size was 28 last year. Average class size this year will be about 12. We are short teachers. Chancellor telling people who have teaching licenses and work for DOE will be teaching. We do not have the capacity to meet the need. If Heroes Act comes through, DOE could hire more teachers. 

Question: Scheduling four periods a day?
Answer: Block scheduling approach to do four periods and lunch. Teacher A comes in with four periods on Monday and Tuesday. The rest of the day for the teacher is lunch and coordination with a remote instructor. Certain schools are doing that now. Due to the challenges we are facing, we have to look at scheduling different models. Recreating the old school day is not the most efficient or effective way to deal with the instructional program during this coronavirus time.

Question: Evaluation?
Answer: We haven't even talked about that yet. Eval cannot be reliant on a MOSL.

Question: I teach Regents courses, limited to seeing these kids a couple of times a week. How is that a viable option?
Answer: We are talking to Regents about standardized tests. You need to have a remote teacher to partner with. You both have to be on the same page. This is about safety. Parents want safety too. We are not in a perfect world now. We don't have answers for every question.

Question: How are we supporting parents with remote learning? Can individual schools have full remote?
Answer: We have had so many issues where we work alongside parents. If school is reopening, a very big if with all the challenges we have, a school can't be fully remote but there is a real possibility of us being fully remote anyway. We made some progress. We still have more to go. Some safety questions have been answered. We will need to talk again. 

Your questions guide our work. We are working with the schools that know how to do this stuff. This journey, March 14, the mayor announced he was closing schools and we jumped for joy. It was originally for two weeks and the virus kept beating on us. We lost so many colleagues but we continued. We were the full support for many parents and families. We kept extending and we got through the school year. Challenge for us is moving forward but nobody knows at this moment; right now I would say no.  Thanks people for being on the call. There will be a couple of more of these virtual town halls. Good for us to talk to each other. Take a deep breath and we will face challenges together.


 From the principal page:

As of July 24, 2020, all school-based staff members in excess, who were provisionally hired for the 2019–20 school year, will be automatically placed back into excess. Principals who wish to retain a provisional hire as a permanent member of the staff, must complete this form by noon on July 23. For questions, email

Monday, July 20, 2020


This petition has garnered 4,000 signatures in a day. Add yours too if you support all remote learning to start the school year.

We also learned today that Baltimore schools will be fully remote until at least the middle of October.


If the Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell gets his way on the new national relief bill, it will include a sweeping liability shield for schools, universities, and businesses. This is from the AP last Friday:

WASHINGTON (AP) — A new plan from Senate Republicans to award businesses, schools, and universities sweeping exemptions from lawsuits arising from inadequate coronavirus safeguards is putting Republicans and Democrats at loggerheads as Congress reconvenes next week to negotiate another relief package.

The liability proposal, drafted by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and senior Republican John Cornyn of Texas, promises to shield employers when customers and workers are exposed to coronavirus by moving lawsuits to federal court and limiting legal liability to acts of “gross negligence or intentional misconduct,” according to a draft of the plan obtained by The Associated Press.

Would you give the NYC Department of Education this protection against lawsuits to obtain federal money?

The Democrats look like they are with us here:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is firmly on the opposite side of the liability plan, pressing instead for emergency workplace regulations to protect paramedics, emergency medical personnel, and other health care workers at risk of exposure to COVID-19 in their workplace.

The $3.5 trillion House Democratic measure, passed two months ago, requires the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, to issue emergency temporary workplace COVID safety standards for employers immediately upon enactment of the bill. That’s a nonstarter with the GOP.

“They have resisted, in the past, any strong OSHA standard, and that is absolutely essential for us to have to protect our workers, at all times, but an even stronger one at the time of coronavirus,” Pelosi said on Thursday.

This is going to be one interesting negotiation. This is an update from the AP from earlier today.

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump acknowledged Monday a “big flare up” of COVID-19 cases, but divisions between the White House and Senate Republicans and differences with Democrats posed fresh challenges for a new federal aid package with the U.S. crisis worsening and emergency relief about to expire.

Trump convened GOP leaders at the White House as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell prepared to roll out his $1 trillion package in a matter of days. But the administration criticized the legislation’s money for more virus testing and insisted on a payroll tax cut that could complicate quick passage. The timeline appeared to quickly shift.

Any thoughts? 

(Please nothing on crime here. Thanks.)


NYSUT and AFT demand school districts follow state Department of Health guidance for reopening

ALBANY, N.Y., July 19, 2020 — New York State United Teachers and the American Federation of Teachers today demanded that school districts follow school reopening guidance issued by the governor and state Department of Health that mandates social distancing, reduced occupancy and the use of masks, among other safety measures.

The unions made the call amid reports of confusion over such requirements at the local level as districts develop their individual reopening plans.

“With the clock ticking for districts to develop and submit reopening plans, there is no time for ambiguity,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said. “We’ll say it again: Health and safety, as well as equity, are absolutely essential in planning for the fall. The Department of Health issued clear guidelines regarding social distancing and masks. There’s no reason districts should be guessing at what the safest option for students, staff and the entire school community is.”

“Frankly I was shocked when I saw an interpretation of the minimum guidance on safely reopening schools that suggested that a district could choose masks or physical distancing. Working with fellow members of the governor’s Reimagine Education Advisory Council, we developed strong guidelines for how to keep our schools safe, if districts moved forward with some form of in-person instruction. And that guidance was spelled out in Governor Cuomo’s reopening schools safely plan. It’s not an either/or; physical distancing or physical barriers are absolutely necessary in schools, as are masks. Masks are strongly recommended at all times, and absolutely are required if it is impossible to physically distance, as in hall passing,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said. “Parents need to feel confident that if they send their children back to school it is safe, just as educators need to feel equally as confident that it will be safe for them. We can’t have confusion at this stage. Districts need to get this right.”

According to the DOH guidance:

●Districts must ensure there is proper social distancing on school grounds and in school facilities. “Specifically, appropriate social distancing means six feet of space in all directions between individuals or use of appropriate physical barriers between individuals that do not adversely affect air flow, heating, cooling, or ventilation, or otherwise present a health or safety risk.”

●Even with face coverings in use, occupancy of spaces, such as classrooms and other small spaces, “should not exceed 50% of the maximum capacity of the space, unless it is designed for use by a single occupant.”

●Face coverings must be worn “any time or place that individuals cannot maintain appropriate social distancing.” Further, face coverings are “strongly recommended at all times, except for meals and instruction with appropriate social distancing. However, Responsible Parties can require face coverings at all times, even during instruction; and it is strongly recommended in areas with higher rates of COVID-19 community infection.”

●Other health and safety measures must also be in place.

NYSUT and AFT believe that all of these requirements must be met and are unequivocally necessary before anyone returns to the classroom.

“We must get this right,” Pallotta said. “We will not jeopardize the health and safety of students, educators and families by agreeing it’s safe to go back without these requirements in place.”

New York State United Teachers is a statewide union with more than 600,000 members in education, human services and health care. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.

For additional resources, visit

Sunday, July 19, 2020


This news article is from the NY Times. Thanks to a reader who sent it out.

Older Children Spread the Coronavirus Just as Much as Adults, Large Study Finds

The study of nearly 65,000 people in South Korea suggests that school reopenings will trigger more outbreaks.

In the heated debate over reopening schools, one burning question has been whether and how efficiently children can spread the virus to others.

A large new study from South Korea offers an answer: Children younger than 10 transmit to others much less often than adults do, but the risk is not zero. And those between the ages of 10 and 19 can spread the virus at least as well as adults do.

The findings suggest that as schools reopen, communities will see clusters of infection take root that include children of all ages, several experts cautioned.

“I fear that there has been this sense that kids just won’t get infected or don’t get infected in the same way as adults and that, therefore, they’re almost like a bubbled population,” said Michael Osterholm, an infectious diseases expert at the University of Minnesota.

“There will be transmission,” Dr. Osterholm said. “What we have to do is accept that now and include that in our plans.”

Several studies from Europe and Asia have suggested that young children are less likely to get infected and to spread the virus. But most of those studies were small and flawed, said Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute.

The new study “is very carefully done, it’s systematic and looks at a very large population,” Dr. Jha said. “It’s one of the best studies we’ve had to date on this issue.”

There is more in the article. This study is an important piece of evidence to consider when deciding whether or not to reopen school buildings.

There is also a powerful opinion piece in The Times that is further essential reading. The title is, Please Don’t Make Me Risk Getting Covid-19 to Teach Your Child
If I’m asked to return, I’ll have to walk away.

It is written by Washington public high school medical science teacher Rebecca Martinson.

Some highlights:

My school district and school haven’t ruled out asking us return to in-person teaching in the fall. As careful and proactive as the administration has been when it comes to exploring plans to return to the classroom, nothing I have heard reassures me that I can safely teach in person.

More than 75 New York Department of Education employees have died of Covid-19. CDC guidelines say a return to traditional schooling with in-person classes would involve the “highest risk” for Covid-19 spread. But even in-person classes with students spaced apart and prevented from sharing materials are categorized as leading to “more risk.” The “lowest risk” for spread, according to the CDC, is virtual learning. I can’t understand why we would choose more risk than is necessary. 

Ms Martinson then describes her transition in a few months from a novice to a competent remote teacher. Her conclusion is a statement of resolve for every educator:

If I’m asked to return to the classroom as the pandemic rages, I will have to walk away. As deeply as I love teaching, I will not risk spreading this virus in a way that could hurt a child or a family member of a child. While children make up a small proportion of U.S. coronavirus cases and they are less likely to become seriously ill than adults, the virus might be linked to “multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children.” Plus, many of my students struggle with poverty or are from multigenerational households. I will not risk passing a virus to them that they might pass to their vulnerable loved ones. I won’t do it.

It isn’t fair to ask teachers to buy school supplies; we aren’t the government. But we do it anyway. It isn’t fair to ask us to stop a bullet; we aren’t soldiers. But we go to work every day knowing that if there’s a school shooting, we’ll die protecting our students.

But this is where I draw the line: It isn’t fair to ask me to be part of a massive, unnecessary science experiment. I am not a human research subject. I will not do it.

I would change the last line to, "We will not do it." This should be a collective resolve.

Saturday, July 18, 2020


UFT President Michael Mulgrew's Thursday appearance on WNYC should be required listening for UFT members who are concerned about reopening in September. Mulgrew rightly was critical of the city/Department of Education for taking too long to plan for the upcoming school year. Mulgrew talked tough but then backed down when asked about a strike. From our commentary on the program:

Lehrer: Should I take it as a strike threat if the city doesn't prepare sufficiently?
Mulgrew: No, we still have a month to go. I would say a 60% chance we will be fully remote. We don't have the funding. Big fight over the Heroes Act. The virus is raging out of control nationally. Governor was smart by putting in clear unambiguous plans. Need to meet numbers and have a safety plan. If they don't have the safety plan, we will do everything in our power to make sure that a school doesn't open and put children and teachers at risk.

The UFT is not stepping up to demand in no uncertain terms that it is children and UFT member safety above all else, particularly during a pandemic.

Meanwhile out in Chicago, where they have a real teachers union, they are taking action. I received an email yesterday from the Chicago Teachers Union on a safe protest planned for Wednesday.

Join our car caravan for a safe demonstration to demand schools open virtually this fall, for the safety of all.

CTU members miss our students and want to teach them in-person as soon as we can safely. Yet safety for our students, their families and our colleagues comes first. Safety first was our watchword before the pandemic, it’s even more important now. 

Further down, as part of their call for action, they note how the Chicago Public Schools have not been up to the task:

CPS failed to provide even the most basic sanitation before the pandemic. They’ve failed to provide adequate staffing or supports for students with special learning needs, much less adequate supports for students facing a pandemic.

Join this car caravan—safely distant and protected in your car from contamination—to show the board meeting we are united for the safety of our students, their families and the educators who serve them.

Back here in NYC, the best we will get from the UFT is another Mulgrew virtual town hall on Tuesday afternoon. I urge everyone to register and demand to get through the screeners so Mulgrew has to answer some tough questions on reopening. There cannot be a repeat of the delays in the spring which unfortunately was part of the reason why so many UFT members working in schools became infected with COVID-19 and over 70 school based workers passed away due to complications.


The information below is taken from a State Education Department press release. Can NYC meet the State Guidance to reopen?

The New York State Education Department today released guidance to help schools and school districts as they plan to reopen, whether that occurs in person, remotely, or in a combination of the two. 

Health and Safety
Focused on preventive actions, schools and districts will be required to perform health checks and screenings, per DOH guidance, and recognize signs and symptoms of  illness in students and staff; develop plans to maximize social distancing; develop plans to manage and isolate ill persons until they can be sent home; instruct students and staff in proper hand and respiratory hygiene; require wearing appropriate face coverings; and develop cleaning and disinfection procedures for the school in accordance with CDC and DOH guidance.

Schools and school districts should promote social distancing while maintaining existing safety requirements designed to protect students. To accomplish this, schools may expand their physical footprint or change the way they utilize space. Schools should also continue to meet or exceed ventilation requirements and may wish to consult with design professionals to increase ventilation and filtration.

Schools must continue to conduct mandatory fire and lockdown drills according to the existing stat­utory schedule. School leaders will need to plan for these drills to be conducted in a manner that maintains social distancing at exits and gathering points outside the building, while still preparing students to respond in emergencies.

Schools and school districts should include food service directors in reopening plan discussions so they are able to meet their requirements to provide all enrolled students with access to school meals each school day whether school is in-person or remote; address all applicable health and safety guidelines; ensure compliance with Child Nutrition Program requirements; and communicate with families through multiple means, in the languages spoken by those families.

The school bus is an extension of the classroom and services should be provided to all students with consistency and equity. Each district will be required to: perform regular school bus disinfec­tion measures; train students and school bus staff regarding social distancing on the bus, at stops, and at unloading times; and train students and staff regarding the wearing of masks. Both students and drivers will wear masks and social distance on the bus. Districts will continue to provide trans­portation to homeless students, students in foster care, those who attend religious, independent or charter schools – and those with disabilities – just as they always have.

Social-Emotional Well-Being
As school and district personnel adapt to environments that result in substantially less time spent interacting in-person, ensuring intentional and meaningful inclusion of social emotional learning (SEL) across all aspects of operating strategies is critical to support the well-being and success of students, staff, and families. Along with physical health and well-being, schools and districts must also prioritize social emotional well-being – not at the expense of academics, but in order to create the mental, social, and emotional space for academic learning to occur.

School Schedules
Schools must create a comprehensive plan for a schedule that includes in-person instruction, re­mote instruction or a hybrid of both in-person and remote. All plans should be clearly communicat­ed, with as much advance notice as practicable, to students, families and staff.

To adhere to state and local health and safety guidelines and ensure social distancing practices, schools may consider various reopening plans and schedules that stagger or alternate their stu­dents’ return to campus. Schools should collaborate with district stakeholders when considering alternate schedules.

Budget and Fiscal
All schools and school districts must continue to meet existing state aid reporting requirements. Additionally, the content of data submissions, such as attendance data, will remain consistent with past practice, except where modified by law, regulation or executive order.

Attendance and Chronic Absenteeism
Schools must develop a mechanism to collect and report daily teacher student engagement or at­tendance. While this requirement is straightforward in an in-person setting, a procedure should be developed to make daily contact with students in remote or hybrid settings. Schools may consider for instance, assigning the homeroom teacher or advisory teacher to be the point of contact to touch base with a specific group of students daily. Attendance data must be reported in the student infor­mation reporting system or SIRS. School policies and procedures must focus on the academic con­sequences of lost instructional time and address absences before students fall behind in school. It is critical for schools to use a variety of creative methods to reach out to students and their families who have not engaged in distance learning.

Technology and Connectivity
Adequate access to a computing device and high-speed broadband is essential for educational eq­uity. Schools and districts must determine the level of access all students and teachers have in their places of residence; to the extent practicable, address the need to provide devices and internet access to students and teachers who currently do not have sufficient access; and provide multiple ways for students to participate in learning and demonstrate their mastery of the learning standards in remote and hybrid instructional models.

Schools and districts should provide instruction on using technology and IT support for students, teachers and families and provide professional development for teachers and leaders on designing effective online/remote learning experiences.

Teaching and Learning
Mandatory teaching and learning requirements include providing clear opportunities for equitable instruction for all students; ensuring continuity of learning regardless of the instructional model used; providing standards-based instruction; ensuring substantive daily interaction between teach­ers and students; and clearly communicating information about instructional plans with parents and guardians.

To allow for schools and districts to adapt to complications caused by the pandemic, certain flexi­bilities will be authorized, including: flexible student/staff ratio in prekindergarten; extended time for prekindergarten and kindergarten screening to be completed; a waiver allowing districts to convert UPK seats from full-day to half-day (not applicable to Statewide Universal Full Day Pre-K pro­grams); flexibility with the 180 minutes per week Unit of Study requirement; flexibility in the delivery of physical education; allowance for a blend of hands-on and virtual science laboratory experienc­es; and when appropriate, districts and charters may utilize remote or virtual work-based learning experiences for CTE and CDOS programs.

Special Education
Schools and school districts are required to provide: a Free Appropriate Public Education consis­tent with the need to protect the health and safety of students with disabilities and those providing special education and services; meaningful parental engagement regarding the provision of ser­vices to their child; collaboration between the Committee on Preschool Special Education/Commit­tee on Special Education (CPSE/CSE) and program providers representing the variety of settings where students are served; access to the necessary instructional and technological supports to meet the unique needs of students; and documentation of programs, services and communications with parents.

Schools and school districts should consider in-person services a priority for high-needs students and preschool students with disabilities whenever possible and consider contingency plans devel­oped by the CPSE/CSE to address remote learning needs in the event of intermittent or extended school closures.

Bilingual Education and World Languages
Reopening plans must address the learning loss experienced by many English language learners (ELLs), in both their English language development and their mastery of content area knowledge. The Department has identified the following requirements and considerations that will allow schools to provide ELL services that address the impact of last year’s school closures and prepare them for potential challenges in the coming year. Schools and districts must:

●provide all communications to parents/guardians of ELLs in their preferred language and mode of communication to ensure that they have equitable access to critical information about their children’s education;
●ensure that all ELLs receive appropriate instruction that supports their college, career, and civic readiness, by providing them the required instructional Units of Study in their English as a New Language or Bilingual Education program based on their most recently measured English language proficiency level;
●conduct ELL identification for all students who enrolled during COVID-related school closures in 2019-20, during the summer of 2020, and during the first 20 days of the 2020-21 school year within 30 days of the start of the school year; and
●recognizing that all teachers are teachers of ELLs, provide professional learning opportunities related to the instruction and support of ELLs to all educators, as required by Part 154 of the Commissioner’s regulations.
Schools and districts should align their policies to the Blueprint for English language learner/Mul­tilingual learner (ELL/MLL) Success; adopt progress monitoring tools to measure ELL proficiency; provide social-emotional learning supports to ELLs in their home language; continue utilizing tech­nology in ELL instruction; support Students with Interrupted/Inconsistent Formal Education (SIFE) and other vulnerable populations; ensure the Emergent Multilingual Learners (EMLL) Profile sup­ports early learning; and support completion of the NYS Seal of Biliteracy.

Staffing and Human Resources
As schools and school districts create their plans for the 2020-21 school year, they must ensure that all teachers, school and district leaders and pupil personnel service professionals hold a valid and appro­priate certificate for their assignment; can continue to utilize incidental teaching when determining how to staff their classrooms; can employ substitute teachers to address staffing needs for the allowable amount of days given their qualifications and teaching assignment; should work with educator prepara­tion programs to identify appropriate ways in which student teachers can support classroom instruction; and should consider whether their currently approved APPR plans may need to be revised in order to be consistent with their plans for re-opening under an in-person, remote or hybrid instructional model.

By July 31, all districts and schools are required to create and provide to the Department Reopening Plans at the school level, pursuant to the directions in the guidance. The plans should be posted on the school’s public website and must contain the mandatory elements outlined in NYSED’s School Reopening Guidance Document.