Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced this morning that high school buildings will reopen for in-person classes on Monday, March 22. High school staff with in-person assignments will report to their buildings on Thursday, March 18 and Friday, March 19 to set up for the safe return of students. We will continue to work with the Department of Education to make it as smooth an opening as possible.
The amount of hard work you have put in this year is awe-inspiring. We know just how challenging it has been for you to keep your high school students focused and engaged in remote learning. Many of you have had to use all the creativity and ingenuity you could muster to teach hands-on skills through a computer screen. You cannot be thanked enough for being the dedicated professionals you are and doing everything you can to help our students succeed during a time of personal stress and uncertainty for all of us.
To reopen high schools, the mayor had to demonstrate that the city could conduct randomized weekly testing of 20% of staff and students in every high school building without any diminishment in testing in elementary, middle and District 75 schools. Thanks to additional federal funding for public schools, the mayor has the resources to increase and sustain that level of testing in all of the city’s 1,800 schools.
This level of testing is what has kept our school communities safe. No high school student will be allowed to stay in school for in-person learning without a COVID-19 testing consent form signed by their parent or guardian.
Our goal is to ensure that all high school educators with in-person assignments have the opportunity to be vaccinated through the union’s vaccine program or the city’s new vaccination sites dedicated to DOE employees. Please fill out the vaccine enrollment form the UFT sent you via email on March 5 if you wish to be immunized through the union’s vaccine program before in-person classes resume. For help and more information, call the UFT Vaccine Hotline at 212-701-9677.
In-person high school educators will have the next two weeks to plan for the transition. The city will use that time to relocate vaccination centers now located in high school buildings. Medical accommodations that were granted earlier this year will continue to be honored through June.
As school buildings that have not been used in months are reopened, our commitment to the safety standards that have kept us safe must not waver. Social distancing, personal protective gear, handwashing and adequate ventilation are just as important as randomized COVID testing. Every high school must follow the comprehensive building safety plan we established in the fall. Please report immediately any issues so we can resolve them.
We are here for each other. Please call us at 212-331-6311 if you have any questions and concerns.
Michael Mulgrew, UFT President
Janella Hinds, UFT Vice President for Academic High Schools
Sterling Roberson, UFT Vice President for CTE High Schools