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UFT President calls NYC schools reopening plan 'not enough'

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Posted at 3:49 PM, Jul 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-31 22:16:53-04

NEW YORK — The president of the largest local teacher's union in the country says the city's plan to protect and test students returning to classrooms doesn't get a passing grade.

UFT head Michael Mulgrew is concerned about the health and safety protocols the city released Thursday night.

"The standards the city proposed — for protection, testing, and closing of schools and classrooms — are not enough," he said in a statement Friday.

Mulgrew's specific concerns involve testing.

"We need randomized testing of school communities throughout the year and a vigorous contact tracing system that gives schools test results and a course of action with a 24-hour turnaround," he added.

Under the city's plan, the Department of Education will purchase supplies like face coverings for students, teachers, and staff; disinfectant; hand sanitizer; and electrostatic sprayers.

Repairs and adjustments will be made by school leaders and facilities staff to ensure safe conditions, the memo said.

As for employees, all staff members will be asked to take a COVID-19 test in the days leading up the first day of school, the announcement said.

These personnel will have priority access for free testing at 34 city-run testing locations, with tests provided with expedited results. This testing is also available for families citywide.

When school buildings reopen, the following daily prevention and tracing requirements will be put in place :

  • An isolation room for students with symptoms with a dedicated staff member or health professional
  • Physical distancing and required facial coverings
  • Cleaning throughout the day and nightly disinfecting
  • Clear communication with families and school community

If a student or teacher is feeling sick, they are required to stay home, the plan reads. If their symptoms are consistent with COVID-19, they're asked to get tested.

These standards may just not be enough, according to Mulgrew.

"What’s more, even if there are stronger safety standards in place, we still have grave concerns about the city’s ability to enforce them effectively in every school. Right now, this is not enough to protect students and staff," he said.

Still, according to the mayor, with the outbreak protocols, masks, cleanings, blended learning curriculum and social distancing, health and safety will remain the priority.

“We’re creating a system that gives maximum opportunity for kids to be in a classroom - it’s where we know kids learn best , get the support they need, emotionally, the food and health support,” said the mayor.

“It is a big endeavor but we are up to it in this city,” he added.

Remote learning is still an option for NYC public school students and teachers.

Next week, Governor Cuomo is expected to announce if kids and teachers will go back to classrooms in September.

PIX11 News' Corey Crockett also contributed to this story.