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Construction work protocols for occupied school buildings

Renovating schools while they are occupied with students and staff presents a challenge for the school population as well as the workers involved in the construction. Many older schools have potential hazards such as lead-based paint, asbestos and poor indoor air quality.

Since New York City schools are overcrowded, much of this work must be performed while schools are in session, creating potentially serious safety and health hazards. In response, the UFT developed a site-construction protocol that was negotiated with the DOE. This protocol requires contractors to implement protective methods and procedures to safeguard students and staff.

The protocol, outlined in Article 10 of the UFT/DOE contract, includes the following: job committees, isolated work areas, thorough dust containment procedures, asbestos and lead exposure precautions, safety procedures for all construction workers to follow, separate sanitary facilities for workers and normal occupants, separate stairwells and paths of egress, specific notification procedures and practices for minimizing airborne contaminants, especially fumes and vapors.

The School Construction Authority (SCA) was established by the New York State Legislature in December 1988 to build new public schools and manage the design, construction and renovation of capital projects in New York City's more than 1,200 public school buildings, half of which were constructed prior to 1949.

This School Construction Authority protocol is outlined in article 10 of the UFT contract. Prior to the commencement of an SCA project there must be a protocol meeting with the UFT Chapter Leader, principal , custodian and other stakeholders such as the parent coordinator, PTA President, etc.

The NYCDOE Division of School Facilities (DSF) is responsible for the maintenance, repair and safe operation of all facilities under the jurisdiction of the City’s school system. The DOE DSF also conducts renovation and construction projects on a smaller scale than the SCA. Prior to the commencement of a project, the DSF must hold a protocol meeting at the school with the UFT Chapter Leader, principal and custodian when repair, renovation and/or construction work will disturb/involve more than 100 square feet of building materials.