I have been connected in a timely manner today. Waiting for the meeting to start. We will take notes and post throughout.
Michael Mulgrew signs on at 2:05 p.m. He acknowledges Chapter 683 people work later but it is hard to get a slot with 21,000 on calls. He does work around the country with AFT. Colleagues in states with low vaccination rates are going through tough times. Members have been phenomenal. In-person learning is the best for children. Everyone knows that since the pandemic how important it is to have in-person learning. We're hoping that for the beginning up until December that this will be how we start. It's not going to be a smooth opening. There are more challenges than we thought we were going to have as of a couple of months ago. We will talk about medical accommodations too. Half will be on information and half on questions. Recording at UFT website tomorrow.
Strain causing havoc again. Meeting with independent doctors. They are not on our payroll. Strain is troubling. Working with people from hospital chains. Biggest fear is a strain will develop that is vaccine-resistant. Love the diversity in the UFT. The reason we were able to shut down the school system in 2020 and open it last fall is because we have stuck together. We will not say remote only but there needs to be a remote option. We have been telling the city this. After what our children have been through, it is imperative that we do everything we can to get kids into in-person learning. Mayor does not want a remote option. We agree we want the majority in school in-person. Doctors say to balance it toward in-person. Saying that freedom is freedom not to wear masks. Government can mandate vaccines. It is clear in law. We are not supporting that at this point. But, the only way and the fastest way out of the pandemic is for more people to be vaccinated. Our doctors telling us that. We can't say that unvaccinated people can't work. Mayor said proof of vaccine required for recreation. It is established law that a government can't mandate vaccines. It was established in 1905. Upheld many times as government has an obligation to protect the people. Those are the facts. Challenged last year in Democratic and Republican areas. It doesn't matter if it is an emergency authorization or a full authorization. We will defend our peoples' rights but we do not. Mayor has not mandated vaccination but. Teachers are mandated for testing but students can't be because there is no remote option. Test and trace people said they will try to stay to test vaccinated people. We are negotiating. We will have another town hall before school starts. Testing isn't mandated except for non-vaccinated people. DOE must make the testing available to the member during the workday or the DOE will have to give time or compensation to get it done. We have the testing capacity for 85,000 per week. Doctors say unvaccinated more likely to get and spread COVID than vaccinated. Strain we are now dealing with is more problematic than the strains we have had to go through. Prioritizing the non-vaccinated to be tested.
Attorney General's report has come out. It's pretty damning. NYSUT held a meeting about it. Governor says the report was all political that women misjudged him. We are basically saying he is unfit for office at this point. If it was a teacher, they would no longer be involved in education after an investigation. Governor said he was considering mandating vaccines for teachers. It is hard to deal with the governor's office today because of the report. They are preoccupied with sexual harassment which the attorney general says has happened.
Set policies to get people vaccinated. Make it more and more difficult to move around and do different things in life if unvaccinated. We go by what our doctors tell us. They tell us more people need to get vaccinated. 97% of breakthroughs do not lead to serious illness and the other 3% on breakthroughs have other underlying conditions. We are opening in September. Building Response Teams are the key piece. We will do training before school. It can't be "I don't want to be vaccinated or I don't want to wear a mask." Take a deep breath. Look at what we have to still accomplish. People criticize teacher unions. We set up remote classes and then we opened up during a pandemic. Enemies want to use things against us.
Thanks thousands getting trained on what we are trying to implement in September. Five point plan. We have intervention teams, massive summer school that is staying safe, small piece on a pilot on lower class size. We have tried to legislate lower class size in NYC schools but courts have sided with city. Came up with changing the NYC health code and we think we will survive the court challenge. Planning process will start in September. We had a press conference and we are looking to get law passed. K-grade 10 literacy and numeracy screening of every child. Social-emotional diagnostic of every child in our school system. Students will demonstrate problematic outward behavior right away. Some will be shut down. We have a crisis team at every school. We had a building response team on paper before last summer and we made it real in every school. Crisis team becomes an important piece. Thousands have been trained. DOE has been good on this. We will do training to recognize trauma on the first two days of school. We will sent out a giant email with all of this in a couple of weeks. However, to do real diagnostic will take a couple of months. Literacy-numeracy: academic intervention team and professional learning team. Chapter leader and others who have time take these rules. Teacher center people have been trained. Most is computer-based training for a period. K-2 will probably not be on computer but will be 1 to 1. For everyone else, it will be on computer. This should not be an undue burden on everyone including schools. We want to make it as simple as possible. Schools can plan on their own. Do you want to do a pull-out program or a grade based program? Teams in schools have to put the plans together. This is not part of anyone's MOSL. Diagnostics (academic screens) start on September 27 and must be completed by October 22. Most are computer based. Makeups on last week of October. Social-emotional will start later. Mandatory masking coming unless 95% are vacccinated and virus goes down. Only 50 schools can't meet 3 feet distancing. Cafeterias will be very breezy. Hopefully by the middle of October our systems are there and we can troubleshoot. We dealt with problems like with masks and air purifiers quickly. There will be a lot of challenges this year.
New mayor and our contract up by the beginning of next school year. We want every chapter to have a representative group on their own behalf. We are assuming Eric Adams will be mayor. We are talking to him. He knows challenges. School system opening. We can't have things from different ways because that's not how a union works. We're working with our doctors. They have gotten us through this so far. Hopes you are having a better summer than last summer. We hoped we would be beyond this. Last year it was about keeping this safe and keeping our livelihoods. This year it will be a different challenge. Schools will be a lot more crowded. Principals demanding digital classrooms but we said no. We started a collective bargaining conversation as we are technically not in an emergency at this point. Classrooms will be closed down as some of what we dealt with last year is still here. UFT showed people know how to get this done. We will fight what we need to get done to get through the pandemic. We will have fights if we have to. We are not sure whether we will have a remote option. Need a medical necessity. DOE doctors and our doctors will fight over medical accommodations. Medical accommodations this year will not mean work from home. You show courage on the job. We are different types of people. We believe life is about helping.
Question: COVID protocols, Governor listed disinfecting protocols, random testing-how often, is there a protocol for closing a classroom or school, if vaccinated teacher is in a closed room, do they get quarantined?
Mulgrew Answer: Not that much of a change on cleaning protocol. DOE people have been helpful on cleaning. We did 1.2 million tests last year. That is the minimum for this year. Difference is we will have 600,000 more people in buildings. Committing to testing each school every other week. Want people who want to get tested, tested. Classrooms will shut down. It is 3 or 4 to shut down a building if they are related to spread in the building. We will send all of this before the start of the school year. We are in conversations about vaccinated teachers' quarantining.
Question: If we are parents with children under 12, what if our kids are quarantined?
Answer: DOE is saying no CAR days if child is quarantined but this is being discussed with the Municipal Labor Council. This is a bigger issue than just the DOE as it goes through every city agency.
Question: Unvaccinated teachers will be tested in school or on our own?
Answer: Mayor mandated vaccine or testing so employees should be compensated or have tests done during the workday. Waiting for city answer as city agencies are different. City can't tell us it's complicated so the mayor has to make this happen.
Question: People with medical accommodations, will there be options in September if someone who doesn't want to get vaccinated like a leave of absence cause of COVID.
Answer: We have had these conversations with the city. Our position is people should have the option for a leave. This is important as we are supporting someone's individual rights. We are working on that.
Question: If students refuse to wear a mask, what happens as there is no remote option? Teachers Choice?
Answer: Teachers Choice is on the books. Divide pot of money by how money by how many people are eligible. Mike Sill comes on to say spending can begin on August 1. We will have the specific amount per titles as soon as possible. We have asked the city the mask question as to what we will do if kids refuse to wear masks and the city said they will get back to us on that issue. City has to be able to enforce mask mandate.
Question: Programming, should we be programming based on kids changing classes or staying in the same room?
Answer: You need to make sure the 3 foot rule is being implemented. Many schools using non traditional space as classrooms. In high schools it will be a big challenge as students move from class to class. It is a larger scale this year as compared to last. How you are making 3-foot distance rule work is a building issue.
Question: Protocols for isolation room?
Answer: We haven't heard that isolation rooms are being removed. Last year building response team covered this. We will train building response teams on this. We have done that work last year and building response teams will make decisions.
Question: Person who was on the float on the everyday heroes parade-what efforts are made that there is a permanent school nurse in every building?
Answer: It is a huge effort and this is one of Eric Adams' main priorities. We hope to have it done by this September but we should have it done by next September.
Question: Jay Werner from Solidarity: Arbitration for spring break?
Answer: City is upset that we filed it and they are upset that we are getting legislation on class size. Mayor made us work and now he has an obligation to compensate us. This one will be scheduled by the end of September. Mayor will say the governor made us do it and then he will say we got 4 CAR days and we have a piece of paper he signed that said we could go for full compensation and we are doing that.
Question: Google Classroom, told to set it up in email?
Answer: Forward to District Rep or UFT President as this is not a mandate. We have to get back to basic labor laws and collective bargaining. People don't have to do it. It was their choice before COVID emergency. This is a collective bargaining issue now.
Question: Diagnostic analysis, who is responsible for that?
Answer: Professional learning team that has to be in each school and has to have majority UFT on team as we want schools to come up with plan based on our training. Inform us if it isn't done the right way. This has to be done as part of instructional time, that is work time. These are diagnostics, it is more like proctoring. It is what we do when we get the information that is important. School has to come up with plan. If something becomes problematic, you need to let us know. Specific people go to specific schools. We will have models when the school year begins. Doing it computer based, which is 90% of it but then it is how we react to the data. It is not high stakes.
Question: 3 feet distance, what will happen for lunch as non-traditional space is being used for classrooms?
Answer: We had craziness in summer school with masks and social distancing. Expectation in a large system is we will have some problems. Are cafeteria workers coming into classrooms and putting people further apart? If something is not right, contact the Union.
Question: Can we get a video on how to best ventilate a classroom, particularly in cold weather?
Answer: We did that last year and we will put out the video again. Video explains what it is like in each type of building. We want schools retrofitted with federal money for ventilation and green schools. Zero School on Staten Island is using less energy than it produces. Video will be out.
Question: Itinerant teacher, how will that work for us? Would we get tested in every school or would we need to be tested in each school?
Answer: They can't put you in crowded places. You will get a whole load of PPE. Team of people working on that. Need to be tested if not vaccinated. We have a good working relationship with test and trace people. Rules changed under COVID and they ramped up testing.
Question: Per session retro checks, when are they coming out?
Answer: Michael Sill says they are coming in the next couple of weeks. It is August 17 for active members.
Question: Early Retirement Incentive, will it have to start over?
Answer: City unions are all disappointed. The city was afraid too many people would retire. Many new hires already. NYSUT attacked for not supporting mandatory vaccines but on ERI, we don't know how many kids are coming back. We will know on September 15 and October 31. Extra funding will run out in two years. There might be another opportunity in a year or two. Many hours went into the ERI and we were all sad. Sorry, we couldn't get it done. Sponsors in Albany are upset too. If we see the opportunity, we will do it again.
Thanks everyone for taking the time on an August afternoon. Questions help Mulgrew and the Union. We will have another town hall before school begins. Hope it is a better summer than last year. Hope you are all safe. Thankful NYC has all of you to take care of its children. Be well be safe.
For those who want to listen to the town hall recording, click here.