The email below came our way this morning. Thanks to our sources. Be safe, please.
To all of you who will be returning to school buildings on Monday, we want to take the time to address you directly and to clarify and respond to some of your questions that have come in during the past few days.
The decision to reopen elementary schools first brings New York City in line with other cities across the country and the world that have given priority to in-person instruction for younger children. You don’t need to be reminded that our youngest children and our District 75 students need in-person education the most — you all know this population and what they need better than anyone.
The positivity rate of 0.49% out of 170,000 in-school virus tests through Nov. 18 attests to our success in keeping our school communities safe. But more frequent testing is the only way forward as the rate of infection in communities throughout the city rises. To reopen safely, the city has agreed to more aggressive testing when you return. Testing will be mandated and weekly. Twenty percent of all staff and students in Grades 1-5 will be tested every week — even in neighborhoods that have very low infection rates. And no student will be allowed to stay in school for in-person learning without a consent form signed by their parent or guardian.
This more intensive level of testing is our early warning system, but the most important things that will keep our school communities safe are the safety and health protocols we fought for in September.
The rules for closing school buildings and quarantining staff because of positive cases remain in place: The presence of a COVID-19 case or cases confined to one class will still result in the class moving to remote instruction, while the entire school will go fully remote if there are two or more positive cases in a school that are not linked.
See our FAQ on the December reopenings »
Even before this increase in testing, we had the strongest protections of any school system in the country. Now, they are even stronger. We deserve nothing less, given everything we have been through and what we continue to do each day despite a constantly changing environment and set of circumstances.
To reroute the testing capacity to the younger grades, the city has agreed to keep middle and high schools remote. Significantly fewer middle and high school students opted for blended learning and showed up for in-person classes. For this reason and the fact that children 10 and younger are much less likely to contract or transmit the coronavirus, reopening elementary schools first was the most sensible choice.
We’ve heard from many of you that the blended learning model has been difficult for students and educators alike. Moving towards a model that is either fully in person or fully remote should help ease some of that burden. But safety remains the priority — principals have been instructed to reprogram their schools to facilitate as much in-person learning as possible, without sacrificing any of the social distancing or safety requirements. Not all schools will be able to go five days a week. The ability to accommodate more in-person instruction will vary from school to school, depending on the available staff and space.
There has never been a more trying time to be an educator. Your commitment and your presence speak volumes. Thank you for being there for your students and being someone they can count on.
Please call the UFT at 212-331-6311 if you have any questions and concerns. Hearing from the membership is so important to us, especially during a time like this. We will keep you posted with any updates as soon as they arise.
Michael Mulgrew, UFT President
Karen Alford, UFT Vice President for Elementary Schools