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Procedures and rights related to temporary emergency staffing

The following email was sent from UFT President Michael Mulgrew on Oct. 3, 2021: 

On Monday, Oct. 4, 2021, all staff in school buildings will have received at least one dose of the vaccine, which marks a major step to keeping our school communities safe for the duration of this pandemic. We are proud that 97% of our membership has been vaccinated and will be returning to school tomorrow to continue to do the important work we do. For any schools that will face temporary staffing shortages, we’ve worked to arrange flexibility in order to avoid combining classes and to keep our students and members safe.

If your school faces an emergency staffing situation on Monday, the following amendments to contractual job responsibilities may be made on a temporary basis, as outlined in Article 7N of the DOE-UFT contract (pages 46-47). This agreement will remain in effect for five school days, starting on Oct. 4, 2021. It was not renewed for an additional week. 


  • Schools may cover all teacher absences and vacancies using all available methods and funding, such as substitutes, redeployed staff, shortage-area staff and F-status personnel. If classes remain uncovered, schools may assign emergency coverages to teachers.
  • Should classes still remain uncovered, schools are permitted to assign school counselors, social workers, psychologists and lab specialists and technicians to emergency coverages.
  • The practice of breaking up classes without teachers and assigning the students to other classes in the school continues to be strongly discouraged. Only after exhausting all of the above options may schools combine classes in areas that can safely accommodate the number of students consistent with social distancing guidelines.
  • Centrally funded IEP teachers may be assigned to emergency coverages with the understanding that they will be relieved from regular work responsibilities during all emergency coverages and shall not be asked to make up the missed work.
  • Occupational and physical therapists may also be assigned to classrooms on an emergency basis to provide supplemental supervision, meaning acting as a second or additional DOE employee in a classroom.

Contractual Rights

  • A person in a non-teacher title who is assigned to an emergency coverage will be relieved of regular work responsibilities for the period of the emergency coverage.
  • A person in a non-teacher title assigned to more than one emergency coverage period in a day will be paid at the teacher coverage rate for each additional emergency coverage per day and will be relieved from regular work responsibilities during all emergency coverages.
  • All efforts will be made to minimize the number of emergency coverages assigned to a person in a non-teacher title, and in no event will such an employee be assigned more than five coverages in a day.
  • The DOE shall not discipline a probationer non-teacher title or an occupational or physical therapist for incompetence while performing an emergency coverage.
  • All matters addressed in this agreement will be resolved through the operational issues process.

Some of you may be asked to undertake tasks that you are not familiar with, but it is only temporary so we can be there for our students as we navigate this challenging situation. We are hopeful that our high vaccination rate will result in minimal to no disruptions in most schools, and we are working around the clock to make sure that schools that do experience staffing shortages return to normal as soon as possible.

Please keep documentation of anything you are asked to do outside your role as delineated in the contract during this emergency situation.

Thank you for your continued dedication and service to your students.