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Please, just tell us the truth

April 10, 2021 pm30 2:09 pm

On Thursday the New York City Department of Education got rid of the “two cases” rule – a holdover from September. If there were two unlinked cases in a school, that school would be closed. The UFT had fought to maintain that rule. This may have been viewed as a loss. In place of “two cases” are new protocols, not as strong, but that may protect members.

On Thursday Michael Mulgrew wrote to members: “A new protocol for school closures.” (full text at the bottom of this post). He outlined the new closure protocols. But he did not say that the “two case” rule had been eliminated. The biggest part of the news, he just skipped it.

This was not a media release. Sometimes we need to spin for the media. I get that. This was a letter to the members. We deserve the truth. Just tell us the truth.

Today the New York City Department of Education got its way, and will move to a 3 foot rule, instead of the 6 foot rule we had been working with. The New York State Department of Health issued new guidance. The UFT had fought to maintain the 6 foot rule. This will be viewed as a loss. There are a host of places where 6 will remain the rule, but our members, especially in elementary school, will feel this loss directly.

(as an aside – really belongs in a separate post – school lunch will be especially problematic).

Today Michael Mulgrew wrote to members: “Update on CDC’s 3-foot rule.” (full text at the bottom of this post). He minimizes the effect of the new ruling, and fails to identify serious challenges it causes.

This was not a media release. Sometimes we need to spin for the media. I get that. This was a letter to the members. We deserve the truth. Just tell us the truth.

Text of Thursday, April 8 e-mail, Michael Mulgrew to members, in which he fails to mention that we lost the two-case rule:

Dear Jonathan,

Since September, our stringent safety policies have proven successful — keeping the percentage who test positive within our schools low throughout the year. Thankfully, as school staff get more access to the vaccine, the number of adults accounting for new positive cases in our schools is decreasing.

But our children don’t have access to the vaccine yet, and we need to keep monitoring them inside schools to keep them safe. While the mayor has been fixated on removing the two-case rule for some time, we knew we must follow the science and the advice of our independent medical experts during any change in policy. Our independent medical experts have advised us to shift our attention from unlinked cases within schools to the cases within schools that can be traced to a common source. Our focus should shift to even greater monitoring inside the schools. We need to maintain a strong pulse on what’s happening in our schools to avoid spread.

We understand that as circumstances and science evolve, policies should shift to keep up. We have negotiated with City Hall to create a new protocol for closing classrooms and schools that will take effect on Monday, April 12. The goal of these negotiations was to preserve our current level of safety, mitigating spread within schools, while reducing classroom disruptions for our members, students and families.

Here are the details of the new protocol for classroom and school closures:We will continue our very strong classroom closure rule. If there is a positive case found within a classroom, that classroom must move to remote learning for 10 days.If any school has two or more positive cases in different classrooms within seven days, in addition to moving those classrooms to remote learning for 10 days, testing will be increased to 40 percent for that school building for the next weekly testing cycle.If four or more cases are found in different classrooms within one school in a seven-day period, and those cases can be traced to a common exposure within the school, the entire school will move to remote learning for 10 days.Co-located schools within buildings will be considered separate from each other, as long as the schools can prove that there is no physical interaction with the other schools.It’s been a long road, but as a city, we are making progress against this virus. We have undergone so many changes this year, and I know how flexible you have been to provide as much stability as possible for the students you serve. These new safety protocols will take us through June and give us more consistency while continuing to keep us all safe.
Sincerely,Michael Mulgrew's SignatureMichael Mulgrew
UFT President

Text of Saturday, April 10 e-mail, Michael Mulgrew to members, in which he minimizes the change, and oddly blames a judge instead of the New York State Department of Health (compare, for example, this article from Politico):

Dear Jonathan,

There have been many conversations over the last few weeks about the CDC’s recent recommendation to reduce social distancing between students to three feet in classrooms. Now, in the middle of these discussions, an upstate judge has ordered the state Department of Health to issue guidance on the new rules. Local school districts, including New York City, must plan how to implement the new guidelines by working together with all stakeholders.

Your safety remains the top priority, along with the safety of your families, your students, and their families.

After all that we have been through since the start of this pandemic, it was our hope that there would be no further changes. But this is the unfair world we are all living and working in. We know that many times those in charge make decisions without realizing that we are the ones who have to do the hard work of implementing these changes.

Under the new state guidelines, school staff must still maintain six feet from other adults and from students. The guidance also says students must maintain six feet apart in any public area, such as gyms, hallways and lunchrooms. Students and teachers must be in distinct cohorts throughout the day.

With the wide availability of vaccines and our other safety protocols still in place, we are in a good position. But we need to remain vigilant. In the coming days, we will be taking all steps to make sure that any school that moves to the three-foot guidance can do so safely.

The immediate impact of this change will be limited to predominantly elementary schools where space limitations mean some students now attend fewer than five days a week.

As we near the final stretch of this difficult school year, your patience and perseverance are appreciated. We will be in touch with more information as soon as it’s available.
Sincerely,Michael Mulgrew's SignatureMichael Mulgrew
UFT President
One Comment leave one →
  1. David Vota permalink
    April 10, 2021 pm30 6:42 pm 6:42 pm

    Thank you for the update. It’s a shame and it seems like, one by one, each safety measure is taken away or minimized. Next it’ll be, just forget the masks.
    September is coming and I don’t see 500/600 kids in a lunchroom.

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