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27 Blank Pages

July 4, 2020 pm31 1:25 pm

The Department of Education’s new PowerPoint for principals around reopening in September is little better than 27 blank pages. Really. I’ll go page by page later, but just an overview now.

Actually, there are some things in this powerpoint. But either we already knew them, or they are problems. If you are looking for actual content, beyond these notes, try pages 13, 14, 16 and 24. Or wait. I’ll try to write more in the coming days.

I downloaded the new power point: school-buildings-reopening_principal-meeting_07022020.  And here’s a link on the UFT site. Same file.

p1 Title page. Nothing.

p2 Warm up. “NEXT YEAR WILL LOOK DIFFERENT. Every school district in the country is trying something different. Up to this point, we have literally made the road by walking. I’m excited. I’m also anxious. Just like you.”

p3 Blank page to set the tone: “CHANGE IS HARD. We can’t predict the future. We don’t have all the answers. We won’t have all the answers all at once. There is high potential that our answers may change. The only constant is change.”

p4 Empty promise, in preparation for shifting blame for onto principals and schools “WE NEED YOU. We can only do this together. Principals: I need you to lead. Now more than ever. We will navigate this uncertainty together. I commit to giving you as much information and support from central as I can as quickly as I can. We must be partners.”

p5 Agenda (5 points):

  • Summary Survey Results –  Family & Student Survey
  • Health and Safety
  • Budget Update
  • Guiding Principles
  • Call to Action: Next Steps


I’m going to interrupt, to point out that 6 pages in, no content.

p7,8,9 These slides have some summary data from family surveys, about preference about program model, precautions.

  • It is interesting what family preferences are, if there were actual choices. But we don’t know what will actually be possible. How can this data guide our choices? How does this aid decision-making?
  • Turns out, that’s not the intent:  “Along with other information, these results should inform your future communications to your school community.” Also: “The results for your school will be made available to you next week.”
  • So schools should mold their message, not their policy, based on parent/student preferences. <sarc> That’s a relief </sarc> And it also explains why I’m not chancellor.
  • But, when I look more closely, I will pull apart the numbers from this section. They seem to have done some creative accounting.


p11 overview page – includes things such as Programming and PPE and Movement that are actually omitted below, or barely mentioned

p12 “A PROMOTING BEHAVIORS THAT REDUCE SPREAD” We have mostly seen these:

  • “Physical Distancing” 6 feet is a “strong recommend”
  • “Wear a Face Covering” unlike Connecticut there is no exception for teachers while teaching. “Provide disposable face coverings to students and staff.” Not clear who is responsible here (see budget, below).
  • “Keep Hands Clean”
  • “Signage and Floor Markings”

p13 B MAINTAINING HEALTHY ENVIRONMENTS – mostly vague, very little content

  • Changes to School Building: • Modify or configure spaces to ensure compliance with physical distancing rules. • Ensure all schools have a designated Isolation Room, as well as staff to supervise the space. • Utilize School Based Health Centers (SBHC) to provide supplemental care, if this is a viable option.
  • Cleaning and Disinfection: • Ensure schools have adequate cleaning and disinfection supplies. • Ensure deep cleanings are completed on a nightly basis, including with the use of electrostatic sprayers. • HVAC improvements to ensure proper ventilation. • Implement improved cleaning in classrooms, bathrooms, and for high touch areas such as doorknobs and shared equipment such as laptops. • Providing cleaning supplies for classroom teachers if requested.
  • Food Services: • Consider holding lunch in classrooms to minimize interaction between groups of students. We will be soliciting feedback on how to best structure lunch planning. • If the cafeteria must be used, consider personal dividers or assigned seating

I don’t know what an isolation room is, or how we will find staff to supervise it, especially when we are likely to be short-staffed.

I’ll come back to this. But just a fer instance: “If the cafeteria must be used…” Where is the guidance on that decision-making? If you are going to make it up to each principal, based on? I don’t know, their personal judgment, I know some of your principals… you are announcing that there will be plans that compromise the safety of students and staff.

p14 C MAINTAINING HEALTHY OPERATIONS (1/2) This should be crucial, but is vague enough to be meaningless.

  • Testing: • Testing guidance continues to evolve. DOE will provide additional policy guidance.
  • Screening and Entry/Dismissal Protocols: • Guidance on symptom checks continue to evolve. We will be asking for feedback from principals and monitoring best practices for entry/exit protocols. • Consider systemwide implementation of a health screening tool and explore options for electronic data capturing of health screenings. • Screen staff, students, and visitors daily on arrival for symptoms. • Create guidelines for health screenings of staff who report to work outside of morning arrival. • Recommend that student drop off and pick up is done outside the building to minimize the number of external visitors. • Recommend that nonessential visitors do not enter school building. Limit frequency and duration of other visitors.
  • Movement Protocols: • Redesign movement protocols within a building to minimize congestion and designate one-way direction stairwells and single file routes.

Actual guidance? Nothing here. I’ll get a small bit of pleasure in noting someone gets paid a quarter million and is ok with “one-way direction” – although the pleasure fades as I realize that people who can’t get a phrase right are going to try to make decisions that may endanger me, my colleagues, and my students.

p15 C MAINTAINING HEALTHY OPERATIONS (2/2) I took nothing from this slide, except:

  • I noticed the staff mandates come with no guidance “DOE’s goal is to have a nurse or health professional in every building” “Have adequate staff available to support with daily enhanced health protocols.” and
  • I do not think this means anything “Ensure systems and structures for prioritizing social-emotional and mental wellness across all DOE schools including, but not limited to, Health Education, Physical Education and Social-Emotional Learning programs.”  Anyone?


  • Stay Home When Sick:
    • • Staff members and students should stay home when sick.
  • Responses to Symptoms or Positive Cases:
    • • Provide the necessary protocols, personnel, space, and DOE record keeping systems for schools to support students and staff who present COVID-19 symptoms.
    • • Design a clear process that has checks and balances to monitor COVID-19 illness in a school building aligned with state guidance.
  • Contact Tracing:
    • • Partner with NYC Health + Hospitals regarding contact tracing and follow up.
    • • You will hear directly from the Test + Trace and DOHMH team about how this will work in schools.

I have provided the full slide, so that you can plainly see, there is no language about closing a school if there is a positive case. If this is not addressed, I believe we will see job actions, authorized or wildcat, come September.

p17 Heading: BUDGET UPDATE

p18 Further cuts may come if there is no more federal aid. Cuts could happen during the school year.

p19 Budgets will be released (maybe) July 8. Central claims they are picking up the tab for cleaning supplies. No mention of who pays for PPE.

p20 Hiring freeze (transfers only). Open market has not been extended. All excessing goes through a review process.


p22 Now the opening of this slide is interesting: “The New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) will adhere to the following guiding principles as they plan, prepare and open schools for the 2020-2021 academic year.”

  • Did you catch that?  “as they plan” Pretty shady, shifting responsibility, hoping no one would notice.
  • The principles are fine principles. Most have been written down many times before, and are not specific to the pandemic. I actually do want to take some time on these (future post). For now, here they are:

Physical and mental health of our students, teachers, staff, and families • Greater equity among students with respect to the education they receive and the learning environment in which they receive it—whether virtual or in-person • Academic achievement for students through high-quality instruction, tailored enrichment, and culturally responsive educational practices that allow students to see themselves reflected in the materials and lessons of their education • Social-emotional and trauma-informed support for all students • Community and continuity all year among students, and between students and teachers/staff • Priority for in-person learning for students and families who have trouble accessing and engaging in remote learningDeeper empowerment of our families as essential partners in their children’s education • Frequent, consistent, and transparent communication with families, schools, and partners • Clear guidance for schools in balance with the necessary flexibility to meet the needs of their particular school community • Commitment to continuous improvement

(The Department has failed dramatically to provide clear guidance to schools over the course of the crisis. The Department has failed dramatically to provide clear guidance to schools for September. I believe that the failure is not correctable. I do not know if the problem is just leadership, or leadership in combination with personnel, structure, or with both. Decisions can be made and will be made, but in a vacuum of leadership. I am genuinely afraid.)

p23 Heading: NEXT STEPS

p24 “CALL TO ACTION *DATES TENTATIVE — SUBJECT TO CHANGE*” This is a timeline. Things for schools to do, based on things the authors of this powerpoint have not yet done. And frankly, based on things the authors of this powerpoint may not have the competence to do. Let me show you, and save discussion for later:

We will see July 7 when they release their super-secret schedule models. Prediction?  They will not be workable models.

p25 Heading: APPENDIX

p26 “WHERE WE ARE” “NYC Department of Education (NYCDOE) has already began efforts to open schools buildings post-COVID-19. This effort is being completed along the following steps:”

  • This slide actually has content. It is mostly false. The word false is insufficient. They are claiming things happened in April and May which did not. They claimed planning happened in May and June, which did not.
  • I will pull this apart later, but for now, here is their claim for May – June: Key “Design Areas:
    • 1. Enhanced Health Measures
    • 2. Trauma-Informed Transition Back to School
    • 3. Blended Learning
    • 4. School Start Date (both academic year, 12-month programs)
    • 5. Rolling/Phased Starts
    • 6. Social Distancing and Split Schedules
    • 7. Building Operations
    • 8. School Support Services”
  • This is dishonest. This did not happen. I will write more.

p27 NYC DOHMH GUIDANCE  I think this is an old slide: Stay Home if Sick / Keep Physical Distance / Keep Hands Clean / Wear a Face Covering

– – — — —– ——– ————- ——– —– — — – –

The takeaway?  They are only compounding a few bad decisions here. Mostly this is a place-holder. This is sixteen weeks of work, and they are nowhere. Yet they will hold schools responsible for implementing something in a very short time. I am very concerned about the implications for the safety of our students and our staff. I am concerned about these people creating chaos in September. I wish we had real planners in charge.

Big deals:

  • There is no guidance on programming whatsoever. They promise “models” for July 7. I don’t think they have workable models.
  • Six feet is “strongly recommended” That’s worrying.
  • Mask on while teaching? Probably just an oversight.
  • Cleaning – lots of mandates without any road to implementation
  • PPE – not clear who is responsible for providing it
  • Staffing mandates – while staff will be short. Every school should have a nurse – but how?
  • Building closures – completely unmentioned. This almost led to a wildcat job action in March. Are they really preparing to provoke one in September?

I cannot begin to tell you how little respect I have for ability of this Department of Education to lead in a crisis. Or how much fear I feel.

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