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Chapter Leader UpdateChapter Leader Update for March 13, 2020

Due to our focus on providing you with up-to-date information about the new coronavirus, we are publishing an abbreviated Chapter Leader Update. We appreciate all that you’re doing to keep our school communities safe during this challenging time.

This Week's Focus

Tell the mayor why schools must close

We understand the immense disruption a school closure will create for our families. But right now more than a million students and staff crisscross the city every day on their way to schools, putting themselves and others at risk of exposure and increasing the likelihood of bringing exposure into their homes and communities. We must find ways to keep our children safe and to see that they are fed. We must do all we can to help ensure that our students can continue to learn. But we have reached the point where continuing to keep our classrooms open poses a greater lasting threat than the disruption that will result from school closings. Let’s harness the power of this union’s membership to make the case to the mayor why schools must close:

Check for coronavirus updates on the union’s information hub

Please inform your members that the new information hub on the UFT website contains the latest information and city Department of Education guidance on the new coronavirus. You’ll find comprehensive information concerning absences related the virus, quarantine guidelines for DOE staff and students, procedures for upcoming parent-teacher conferences, the DOE’s communications to principals, staff and parents, and much more. We will update this section as new guidance from the DOE or other important information is released.

UFT here to serve its members

The UFT has canceled all events, classes and conferences through March 22 in light of public health officials’ advice to refrain from public gatherings. But the union headquarters, its borough offices and the UFT Welfare Fund remain open to serve members. Call the following numbers if you have a question or need assistance.

Listen to the UFT’s special podcast on the coronavirus

In a special episode of our On the Record with Michael Mulgrew podcast series, UFT President Michael Mulgrew and UFT industrial hygienist Jennifer Long separate fact from fiction about the coronavirus outbreak and discuss the steps the union has taken to help protect our members and communities. You can listen to this podcast on your favorite streaming service.

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Your Chapter Leader Checklist

  • New email addresses: Tell members to make sure they are able to access their email in addition to any school email address they may have. The DOE, especially in the event of school closures, will be communicating vital information with its employees via that email address. Members should take a moment now to make sure they can enter their account or reactivate it.
  • New Is your school stocked with cleaning supplies and protective gear?: We are relying on you as chapter leader to monitor your school’s supplies during the coronavirus outbreak. Does your school have adequate hand soap, paper towels and disinfectant? Does it have gowns, face masks and face shields for staff and students who exhibit symptoms and for staff members, most importantly school nurses, who must come in contact with people who have symptoms? Please spot-check student and staff bathrooms and ask your school nurse/health care professional — or your principal if your school does not have a nurse or clinic — and your school custodian if they have received proper supplies. Please fill out this coronavirus school supplies form if your school does not have these vital supplies.
  • Make sure your school has a designated staffer for its isolation room: Principals have been instructed to designate an adult who will staff the school’s isolation/quarantine room This staff member must stay with the student until pickup by a parent or guardian. If your principal has not designated a staffer to supervise students in an isolation room, please complete our online form.
  • Absences related to the coronavirus: The UFT has been in constant communication with the city Department of Education as they shape new staff attendance policies that take into consideration the new reality of the coronavirus.  Members will not be disciplined for an absence related to their own health or for the care of a family member due to the coronavirus. See an updated version of UFT President Michael Mulgrew’s presentation to the Delegate Assembly.
  • UFT events through March 22 postponed: Due to concerns about the new coronavirus, we have decided to postpone or cancel all UFT events, classes and conferences through Sunday, March 22. A Pathways to Parenthood webinar will be offered to members registered for a borough-based workshop on this topic during this period. All registrants will be contacted. School communities will decide whether to hold their own school-based events. When possible, we will try to reschedule these events for later in the school year. Registrants will be notified regarding any new dates. For conferences and classes involving payment, your account will be credited, and the amount you paid will be applied to a future course, event or conference.
  • Use your personal email for all union business: DO NOT use your DOE email address to conduct union business. To do so is a violation of the DOE’s internet policy. All email correspondence about grievances and other union activities should be conducted using a non-DOE personal email address.

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Participate in your district's Chapter Leader Community

The new online Chapter Leader Community gives you a place to share ideas with other chapter leaders in your district and find answers to questions about union rights and benefits. Already registered? You can enter your Chapter Leader Community here. Having trouble logging in? Read our Login FAQ or call the UFT contact center at 212-331-6311.

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This Week in Education and Labor News

Nine states order schools to close: Nine states and a number of large urban school districts — including Los Angeles, the nation's second-largest — are shutting down all K-12 schools as part of a sweeping attempt to contain the spread of the coronavirus, reports the USA Today. Ohio, Maryland, Oregon, New Mexico, Michigan, West Virginia, Virginia, Louisiana and Wisconsin have ordered all schools closed, and the governor of Kentucky has recommended closing all schools in that state. Such closures will throw into sharp relief the deep socioeconomic divides in American education. Disadvantaged families who rely the most on schools for stable services, such as meals and access to learning materials, will be some of the most negatively affected.

Los Angeles to close all public schools: Los Angeles school officials on March 13 voted to shut down the nation’s second-largest school system effective March 16, citing concerns over the rapid spread of the new coronavirus, reports the Los Angeles Times. The district has about 900 campuses serving more than 670,000 students. District officials said they will continue meal programs and offer televised and online lessons. The closure is initially scheduled to last two weeks, but a firm reopen date will depend on the status of the outbreak.

Washington State closes all schools: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced he would mandate the closure of all Washington schools from March 17 through at least April 24, according to the Seattle Times. The move came one day after the governor said he was using an executive order to mandate K-12 school closures in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties for those same dates. School districts here have begun planning for ways to get core services, such as food, to families.

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Events Calendar

All UFT events have been postponed through Sunday, March 22. See the item in This Week's Focus.

Save the Date

Saturday, May 16: Join us at the annual UFT Spring Education Conference at the New York Hilton, 1335 Sixth Ave., from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event will feature a town hall, exhibits, workshops, breakfast and a gala luncheon. Register online. You must be logged in to the UFT website to register. When you click the link, you'll be prompted to log in. Then, select "2020 Spring Conference" from the menu.

For more events, go to

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Professional Committees

All UFT committee events have been postponed through Sunday, March 22. See the item in This Week's Focus.

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Calling the UFT

The UFT’s new contact center is open and can provide support with all your union rights and benefits. Call the following numbers with any questions or for assistance.

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Editor: Peter O’Donnell

Executive Editor: Bernadette Weeks

Contributors include: Karen Alford, Bradley Alter, George Altomare, Nancy Aromando, Ina Babb-Henry, LeRoy Barr, Doreen Berrios-Castillo, Hannah Brown, Rashad Brown, Tom Brown, David Campbell, Joseph Colletti, Rita Danis, Evelyn DeJesus, Crystal Deoraj, Brian Gibbons, Alison Gendar, Sarah Herman, Janella Hinds, Junior Linton, Joe LoVerde, Richard Mantell, Samantha Mark, Deidre McFadyen, Michael Murphy, Gabriel Nott, Frank Panebianco, Khiera Pena, Marisol Pena, Suzanne Popadin, Jeffrey Povalitis, Cassie Prugh, Tina Puccio, Nadine Reis, Hector Ruiz, Nanette Sanchez-Rosario, Robin Sentell, Michael Sill, Anne Silverstein, Geof Sorkin, Rosemarie Thompson, Joseph Usatch, Angel Vasquez and Betty Zohar.