UFT President Michael Mulgrew sent the letter below to Mayor de Blasio this morning. Copies of the letter were also sent to Chancellor Meisha Porter and First Deputy Mayor Dean Fuleihan.
Dear Mayor de Blasio,
While so far our public schools have successfully reopened, I am concerned that this year’s reduced frequency of COVID testing means that thousands of children will spend days in classrooms without the early warning system that last year made our schools among the safest places in the community.
According to the Department of Education’s most recent count, in the first week of the new school year, fewer than half of our more than 1,800 schools and sites have been tested, and a total of 663 classrooms have been fully or partially closed, including the closing of one entire school.
But because current testing is biweekly, hundreds of other schools will not get a visit from a testing team until the coming week. Meanwhile students in untested schools — including children under 12 who cannot be vaccinated — could be needlessly exposed to the virus.
The UFT made it clear over the summer that biweekly testing was insufficient given the Delta variant and the strong possibility that many schools would struggle to meet the three-foot social distancing guidelines.
The first week of school, including photos of students packed into crowded hallways and cafeterias, only strengthens the argument for more testing.
If the city had a thorough and rigorous weekly testing protocol, it is not unreasonable to expect that the real number of classrooms that would be fully or partially closed today because of COVID-19 infections could be 1,000 or even higher.
While children are less likely than adults to be hospitalized for COVID, we have also seen recent waves of pediatric COVID cases fill emergency rooms across the country.
We must do all we can to keep our schools open and our students and staff safe. Weekly testing of students under age 12, along with those in District 75, must be reinstated if we are to meet that goal.
United Federation of Teachers