Hudson Valley Teachers: Schools Not Ready to Open
A large number of teachers from across the Hudson Valley say schools should not reopen in September.
In early August, during a conference call, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced all schools across New York State can reopen in September.
On Monday he said individual schools across the state will be shut down if coronavirus starts to spread.
On Friday, in "An Open Letter to the School Communities" teachers from Orange, Putnam, Rockland and Westchester counties wrote about "concerns" educators have about students returning to the classroom next month.
"To create truly safe re-entry plans, districts would require more time, direction, and resources. It is telling that neither the state nor federal governments have provided additional resources to help ensure a safe re-entry; districts have been on their own," the letter states.
A number of school districts have decided to keep students home at the start of the school year, with students returning around October. Other districts plan to have a hybrid schedule with students in the classroom some days and learning online others. Teachers wrote in the letter there are many risks with a hybrid model.
"The hybrid model is the most popular one for re-entry this September, but it poses significant risks. The hybrid model requirement gained traction in the state early on, but unfortunately, most of what we have recently learned about COVID-19 and children calls the safety of this model into question. These risks are not a reflection of inadequate efforts by any district or administrative team in protecting the children and staff in their schools. Rather, they are inherent inadequacies when a system designed around instructing students is tasked with creating learning environments that will protect children and teachers during a viral pandemic. Additionally, there has been a failure in state and federal governments to ensure that adequate testing, PPE, and HVAC filtration systems are readily available," the letter says.
Educators also fear it will be difficult to keep students well-behaved every minute of every day.
"Every plan assumes a well-behaved student body that will follow all directives and maintain masks and social distancing, even during hall passing. Plans assume we will be able to hire enough leave replacements, substitutes, and monitors to supervise students in the next three weeks. This will not occur. When schools reopen with the potential of being understaffed, it will make an already unsafe situation even worse," officials say.
Educators want the following measures in place before returning to in-person instruction:
1. All building-wide HVAC systems must be upgraded to a minimum of MERV-13 filtration, and if existing systems cannot be upgraded, portable units with HEPA filtration must be available for all indoor spaces.
2. There must be uniform standards for COVID testing that help monitor asymptomatic spread. COVID testing must provide accurate and reliable results within 24 hours in order to monitor asymptomatic spread. The current wait time can be as high as 12 days, which is not adequate to help prevent the spread of COVID by asymptomatic individuals infected with COVID in our schools.
3. Supply lines for PPE must be prioritized to deliver all necessary PPE to schools in a timely fashion. All schools must have an adequate supply of PPE at all times, including enhanced PPE for students and employees who require it.
4. School districts must be able to guarantee that there is sufficient staff to supervise students and provide instruction, even as individual staff members are absent for illness or quarantine, child-care, or personal leaves.
5. There must be a 100% virtual option for teachers and students who are medically compromised.
6. Plans should require a minimum 14-day shutdown once closed for COVID-19 issues.
You can read the full letter HERE:
The following cosigned the letter:
Marcia Heffler, Dobbs Ferry United Teachers
Edward Caperna, USWOM
Michael Lillis, Lakeland Federation of Teachers
Nate Morgan, Hastings Teachers Association
Vanessa Vaccaro, Ossining Teachers Association
Tom McMahon, Mahopac Teachers’ Association
Jennifer Maldonado, Hendrick Hudson Education Association
Elisa Rosen, Hendrick Hudson Education Association
David Wixted, Scarsdale Teachers Association
Anthony Nicodemo, Greenburgh North Castle United Teachers
Mary Claire Breslin, New Rochelle Federation of United School Employees
Samantha Rosado-Ciriello, Yonkers Federation of Teachers
Brenda O’Shea, Somers Faculty Association
Andrea McCue, Haldane Faculty Association
James Groven, Irvington Faculty Association
Judith A. Kelly, Teachers’ Association of the Tarrytowns
Chris Tyler, Harrison Association of Teachers
Jeanne Whelan, Tuckahoe Teachers’ Association
Roseanna Cutietta, Hawthorne Cedar Knolls Federation of Teachers
Rick Tivnan, Brewster Teachers’ Association
Carene Domato, Mt. Vernon Federation of Teachers
Melissa Barreto, BOCES Teachers’ Association
Jeff Yonkers, NYSUT ED 16 Director
Sean Kennedy, Yorktown Congress of Teachers
Lisa Jackson, Carmel Teachers’ Association
Janet Knight, Mamaroneck Teachers’ Association
José Fernandez, Peekskill Faculty Association
Amy Geiger, Katonah-Lewisboro District Teachers’ Association
Kathleen Fox, Edgemont Teachers’ Association
Miriam Longobardi, Chappaqua Congress of Teachers
Jennifer Cole, Greenburgh Eleven Federation of Teachers
Jim Nolan, Mount Pleasant Cottage School Teachers Association
Kara McCormick-Lyons, White Plains Teachers’ Association
Alyson Tina, Ardsley Congress of Teachers
Ryan Odell, Putnam Valley Federation of Teachers
Catherine Armisto, United Staff Association (PNW BOCES)
Vincent Kennedy, Katonah-Lewisboro Support Staff Association
Jennifer Moore, Croton Teachers’ Association
Melinda Merkel, Rye Neck Teachers’ Association
Jim Agnello, Bronxville Teachers’ Association
Kevin Budzynski, Elmsford Teachers Association
Clare Delongchamp, Eastchester Teachers’ Association
Vanessa Van Deusen, Graham School Federation of Teachers
Virginia Campbell, Mount Pleasant Teachers Association
Michael Groarke, Bedford Teachers’ Association
Sparrow Tobin, Board of Directors NYSUT ED14
Laura Beck, Orange-Ulster BOCES Teachers Association
Ray Hodges, Monroe-Woodbury Teachers Association
Theresa Uhelsky, Minisink Valley Teachers Association
Chris White, Middletown Teachers Association
Jon Wedvik, Clarkstown Teachers Association