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NYC Safety Plan for Schools – Needed, Doesn’t Exist

July 20, 2020 pm31 6:09 pm

Each school is working, planning. Shouldn’t each school come up with a safety plan? Isn’t each school unique?

Schools do need to apply safety guidelines to their individual situations. But those guidelines need to come from the New York City Department of Education – a citywide safety plan. And, as of today, no dice.

There is a New York State document, reopening guidance. But it is the NYCDoE’s responsibility to use it come up with district health and safety policies.

I’m a “programmer.” I schedule my school. My progress is limited by the NYCDoE not meeting this basic responsibility to the schools.

Entry and Movement

There are decisions that need to be made locally. How the kids enter the building for instance. Each building is different.

But that decision cannot be made until the New York City Department of Education has laid out guidelines. For example, will there be temperature checks? Does social distancing need to be maintained during entry? Who monitors the lines to come in so that social distancing is maintained? If that involves teachers, that involves scheduling.

How do kids move in the hallways?  I saw vague reference to one-way stairs and hallways. Of course, my school has one hallway, making a one-way hallway an “interesting” idea. Are we required to create staggered movement during the day? Staggered dismissal?

The NYCDoE may say it is up to each school to comply, but what exactly are we attempting to comply WITH?

Non-teaching space

We schedule classes in rooms. We are not used to “scheduling” administrative space – but that’s in the cards. Where will teachers sit when they are not teaching? Will teachers who are not in-person teaching be in the building?  The NYCDoE has to make that decision, or announce that it is up to each school. (In my building this is a huge issue. Any building where space is tight needs to think about it – but no answers until the NYCDoE has a plan).

In other words: Will teachers who are not teaching in-person be required to teach remotely, but from the building? (or can they stay home?) Should remote teachers wear masks? If they should be in schools, how do we provide space?

The DoE mentioned assigning nurses to every school. Do schools need to clear space for a nurse? (we don’t, we have a school nurse with an office).

Quarantine Room. Every school must have one, I think. Does it have to be a room exclusively dedicated to that purpose? How big must it be?


Not only do we need to plan space for teachers to be when they are not teaching, we need to schedule

  • space for teachers to eat lunch, and
  • an adult to be with students (in small groups?) when they have lunch

The details may be up to each school, but within guidelines set out by the NYCDoE.

NY State has some lunchtime guidelines, but there has not been a description from the NYCDoE of what the safety requirements will be for lunch. The NYCDoE has not issued guidelines. Schools cannot plan lunch (10% of the day? 15%?) until those guidelines come out.

Teaching Space

The New York City Department of Education sent around estimates of how many people fit into each room. They were wrong. In most schools. Schools wrote back with corrections. The NYCDoE sent out new numbers. In many schools, in my school, still very wrong. Do I schedule for the socially-distant number of students that my principal and I agreed on? Or the cramped number probably cooked up by some non-educator? Why were our corrections rejected? (Or ignored). Can we still get the numbers corrected?

State guidelines say that we should not mix kids if possible. This is a high school. Is there a directive to put kids into non-mixing groups? Or do we get a high school exemption?

Very seriously, there are rooms with bad air circulation / bad ventilation. When will we find out if repairs are being made so that we can use the room?

There are Many More Safety Questions

These are unanswered safety questions that have an impact on scheduling. Unfortunately there are many more unanswered safety questions than this. Here’s a list.  (and there is another list in the comments.)

Here’s one not on the list – if we clear space in rooms by moving out furniture, where does the furniture go? Here’s another – how do we conduct safety drills? Here’s another – has the Department of Education actually bought enough masks and hand-sanitizer stations?

This is not a School-by-school Issue – NYCDoE is responsible for Issuing Guidelines

Almost all safety policy needs to be devised centrally, and implemented locally. But there is no central direction.

You know what I think?  I think de Blasio and Carranza don’t have answers. I think they know they do not have answers. I think they are hoping principals “wing it” – so that the mistakes that happen can be blamed on principals.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    July 22, 2020 pm31 12:51 pm 12:51 pm

    This is all frustrating and frightening. I attended a virtual meeting where the school plans to place 15 students in a class. When asked how could they assure 6 ft distances the response was “There is a DOE recommendation that barriers be used when 6ft is not possible.” The “barriers” face shields instead of masks!

    • July 22, 2020 pm31 12:59 pm 12:59 pm

      I responded via email. This is not ok. It cannot be ignored.

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