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Saturday, September 12, 2020

Principals Blast the NYC DOE For Handing Out Safety Equipment That is "Cheap Black-Market Crap" PPE


The dysfunctional thermometers and smelly wipes supplied to NYC schools to battle COVID-19.

First, we hear that teachers with disabling conditions are not getting remote-only accommodations;

Second, we hear that no teacher can teach remotely if they are healthy but live with another person who is not, or elderly parents, etc;

Now we hear that the so-called "safety gear" given out to educators and staff and anyone else to fight against getting COVID-19 is not high-quality stuff and doesn't work.

This is outrageous.

Betsy Combier
Editor, ADVOCATZ Blog

Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials

Principals blast NYC DOE for supplying schools with ‘cheap black-market crap’ PPE

Doree Lewak and Susan Edelman, NY POST, September 12, 2020

It’s PPE to die for.

The city Department of Education is supplying schools with defective thermometers, “low quality” masks, and smelly wipes, a disgusted Queens principal told The Post.

“The s—t they gave us won’t protect us — not the students, teachers or parents,” fumed the educator. “Every principal in NYC is banging their head against the wall.”

“The “cheap, black-market crap” includes touchless, electronic thermometers that registered temperatures at 40, 50, and 60 degrees.

“You’d be dead,” she said. “We keep taking each other’s temperatures like we’re clowns.”

The school leader, who asked for anonymity to avoid repercussions, said the two dozen thermometers sent to her school had no batteries, so she ran to the store and spent nearly $300 of her own money to power them up. They were better left uncharged.

“Why are they spending millions on black-market thermometers with no name brand?” the principal asked, adding that the directions are printed in Chinese. “These are supposed to keep us safe?”

“I really believe this is black-market items from China bought in bulk — hundreds of handheld thermometers we’ll be throwing in the garbage,” the heated supervisor said.

After recognizing the handheld thermometers were faulty, she said, the DOE installed electric thermometers on the walls in the lobby to check students upon arrival.

She is also disgusted by the DOE’s disinfectant wipes.

“They don’t have the high level of alcohol that’s supposed to protect our hands from bacteria.

“I wouldn’t wipe my ass with it,” she said.

“You can smell the wipes — they smell off. You pull out one and they all come through the middle — and they’re exposed to the outside, exposed to bacteria, making them useless.”

The face masks sent by the DOE are “low-quality crap. They look like fake s–t,” she said.

A Brooklyn principal agreed with his Queens colleague.

“The wipes are cheap, smelly, and sticky,” he said.

The thermometers came without batteries, which the DOE has yet to provide,  and “have to be calibrated.”

Masks, he said, are “the cheapest, lowest-quality type.”

The DOE also sent two 30-by-30 inch plexiglass shields for desks and counter tops. “It’s not enough,” he said.

The Post reported last month that some teachers were pleading for masks, hand sanitizers, thermometers and other PPE on donation sites like Donors Choose.

At his daily press conference the next week, Mayor Bill de Blasio played a video touting measures the DOE was taking to protect students from COVID-19. It said the DOE had ordered 4 million face masks, 3.5 million bottles of hand sanitizer and 80,000 canisters of disinfectant wipes, among other supplies.

Teachers Who Are Healthy Want Remote Learning To Protect Family Members But the UFT Says Too Bad


Iolani Grullon and twin daughters

The UFT says there is nothing that can be done to get a teacher an accommodation to work remotely if the teacher is healthy, but a family member may not be, or may have a compromised immune system. In other words, "so sorry....but we can't help you."

NY1 quoted UFT President Mike Mulgrew:

"There is no legal way for us to force this to happen. A medical accommodation is covered under federal law and it’s quite clear what it -- it can only be given to the person with the medical condition. But I feel for those people,” union president Michael Mulgrew said.

Thanks, Mike!

Betsy Combier
Editor, ADVOCATZ Blog

Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials

Teachers With Vulnerable Family Members Plead for a ‘Humane Consideration’ to Work RemotelyTeachers With Vulnerable Family Members Plead for a ‘Humane Consideration’ to Work Remotely

PUBLISHED 5:02 PM ET SEP. 11, 2020

NEW YORK — For 15 years, Iolani Grullon entered classrooms in September, excited for the academic year ahead.

This week, all she could think about was what working in a school during a pandemic might mean for her 13-year-old daughter, Chloe, a heart transplant recipient.

"She had her transplant when she was 15 months old. She’s doing very, very well right now, but she is immunosuppressed and she has a history of pneumonia as well. This is something that would be very, very dangerous for my daughter if I brought it home," Grullon said.

Grullon has taken pains to keep Chloe safe. They strictly limit visitors to their home, and Chloe and her twin sister will learn remotely this year. But Grullon had to return to P.S. 48 in Washington Heights to teach a dual language kindergarten class after being denied a medical accommodation to work remotely.

"I was denied right away, the reason being I’m not the one at risk. I’ve called my union, I've participated in all those town halls, I’ve called the DOE [Department of Education] itself, I’ve done everything,” she said.

While the DOE has granted nearly 16,000 teachers reasonable accommodations because of their own medical problems, the teachers union says no one has been granted permission to work remotely because they live with someone who is immunocompromised. The union is trying to negotiate what it calls a “humane consideration” for them.

"There is no legal way for us to force this to happen. A medical accommodation is covered under federal law and it’s quite clear what it -- it can only be given to the person with the medical condition. But I feel for those people,” union president Michael Mulgrew said.

As a single mom, Grullon can't quarantine from her own children, nor can she afford to take a leave of absence or retire. When she returned to P.S. 48 this week, she walked one and a half miles to and from the school when the weather allowed, to reduce her chance of getting sick from the coronavirus. 

She says she's a nervous wreck already, and students don't even return to class until September 21.  

"I’ll never forget when my daughter, Chloe, was listed to wait for a heart. It was very, very, nerve-wracking. that situation. And this is causing me more anxiety, it really is,” Grullon said. “She’s in such good health right now. She’s doing so well. And my job is going to put her at risk. It’s just unfathomable."

An education department spokeswoman urged those with specific concerns to speak to their supervisors or to explore options for taking leaves. 

“We are working with our educators to ensure they are safe and supported each day, while also making sure our blended learning students have in-person instruction. We empathize with our staff in difficult circumstances and we are putting health and safety first in all of our buildings while also evaluating reasonable accommodations consistent with the law,” spokeswoman Danielle Filson said.

NYC Department of Education Confirms 19 Coronavirus Cases in City Schools


Teachers at I.S. 230 in Jackson Heights, Queens, work outside of their school, after learning
that a colleague had tested positive for the coronavirus a day earlier. (UFT)

Amid swirling rumors, NYC confirms 19 coronavirus cases at city schools


Following days of rumors about coronavirus cases popping up at city schools, education officials announced on Friday that 19 school staffers have tested positive.

One school for students with special needs, the Academy for Career and Living Skills in the Bronx, had two confirmed cases in separate classrooms, triggering a school building closure for at least 24 hours while city health officials investigated, education department spokeswoman Miranda Barbot said.

The rest of the 17 confirmed cases were across 17 separate schools, which remained open. Teachers are reporting to buildings to prepare for the new school year, and schools will not welcome back students until Sept. 21. The city’s teachers union indicated in a Friday press release that there are actually 22 coronavirus cases, though city officials did not immediately confirm that number.

Under city health protocols, only individual classrooms close if one person is confirmed to have the coronavirus or two people have been in close contact with that individual. The city defines close contact as two or more people having been within 6 feet of each other for more than 10 minutes. Officials did not immediately identify those schools.

The 19 positive cases are a small fraction of the 15,000 tests education staff took last week, but it’s unclear if all these cases are tied to last week’s tests. Public health experts have said that positive cases are to be expected and not necessarily a cause for alarm or evidence that infections are spreading inside school buildings.

The department encouraged staffers to get tested before returning to buildings, including the city’s nearly 80,000 teachers, but did not require it. The city’s teachers union had raised concerns about those tests coming back promptly, but department officials said 97% of results were delivered within two days.

The disclosure on Friday afternoon came after days of mixed messages about how the city would handle releasing information about positive cases in schools and its protocols for handling them. It also came as images circulated on social media of teachers refusing to enter a Queens school where a staff member had tested positive.

On Wednesday, the day after teachers were required to report back to their buildings for the first time this school year, the education department confirmed that two staff members had tested positive at two separate Brooklyn campuses shortly after a city councilman told Gothamist about those cases.

On Thursday, though, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city would report positive cases each day “once school begins” — apparently referring to the Sept. 21 start date for in-person classes. Then on Friday, the education department disclosed cases at 18 schools.

One teacher who worked in close proximity to a M.S. 88 colleague who tested positive for the coronavirus told Chalkbeat on Thursday that she had not heard from NYC’s Test and Trace Corps — trained investigators who help track down those who might have been exposed to the virus. Other teachers echoed concerns about contract-tracing.

De Blasio has emphasized that the city’s public health protocols for handling infections in schools are rigorous, but public health experts said it is essential that the city be transparent and repeatedly explain those procedures to the public.

“Almost certainly the rumors on Twitter are going to make the problem look worse than what it actually is,” Benjamin Linas, an epidemiologist at Boston University, previously told Chalkbeat. “The desire to avoid the panic just generates panic.”

Barbot said the city plans to report regularly on new cases starting next week, when it launches a “rapid response team” of health officials and contact tracers to respond quickly to reports of infections.

This is the team principals would notify if a staff member or student reports testing positive. (Test and Trace can also notify schools of positive cases.) It was not immediately clear how that system will work or why it wasn’t up and running before school buildings reopened. The city plans to conduct monthly random tests of between 10-20% of all people in school buildings starting in October.

In a video message to his members, teachers union president Michael Mulgrew said the education department seemed unprepared for even a low number of positive cases and threatened to fight against reopening buildings. “It’s like they didn’t know this was going to happen,” he said.

Department officials did not reveal the names of all the schools with the positive cases, but did confirm a case reported Thursday at I.S. 230 in Jackson Heights, Queens, where distrust over city protocols prompted teachers to work from the school’s playground on Friday.

I.S. 230 staff did not receive an official email notifying them of that positive case until early morning Friday, but word spread much sooner, after the teacher had reported her positive test to the principal Thursday afternoon, said Chris DeRosa, a special education teacher at I.S. 230 and the school’s union delegate. Barbot said the department notified I.S. 230 staff as soon as they learned of the case, while also attempting to confirm it with city health officials.

“We’re like, ‘Oh, any minute now we should be getting that email’ because the principal knows who’s in the building, we all checked in,” DeRosa said, explaining how the principal had notified the district superintendent immediately. “Nothing happened.”

The city’s reopening plan states that contact tracers should begin investigating within three hours of someone self-reporting a case, but the letter sent to I.S. 230 staff said contact tracing would start after the city confirmed the teacher’s positive test. The department did not immediately comment on the apparent discrepancy between the city’s plan and the letter.

Alison Gendar, a spokesperson for the union, said a health department nurse didn’t ask the positive teacher for her close contacts until 10 a.m. on Friday morning — about 20 hours after the teacher first reported the case to her principal. Education department officials did not immediately comment on the timeline.

On Friday afternoon, Barbot said the investigation at I.S. 230 was complete, and “multiple people” were quarantining.

“While we continue to navigate the realities of a pandemic, there will be positive cases,” she said in a statement. “We are putting people’s health above everything else by quickly identifying and isolating positive cases, which is a leading effort to prevent transmission.”

Two Employees at PS 811X and 17 Other Schools Test Positive For COVID-19, Close For 24 Hours

PS 811X on Longfellow Avenue in the Bronx. (Susan Watts/New York Daily News)

So let's get the Department's policy correct: When staff test positive for COVID-19, the school closes for 24 hours. That's a great idea, and we are to assume that during those 24 hours the school will be sanitized from ground to roof. I'm not sure of that.

Next we hear from the Daily News that 17 other schools had staff who tested positive, but we aren't told which ones because the sick employees are self-isolating and Test & Trace Corps. is investigating all confirmed cases for anyone who came into contact with the co-workers who got the virus. 

Whew, that's a relief.

If you believe it.

I don't.

I think the Department must share the names of all schools where employees got sick. Then we can all follow up with whether or not sufficient testing of all in attendance was done, and whether the school is being cleaned.

 Betsy Combier
Editor, ADVOCATZ Blog

Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials

Bronx school closes after two staffers test positive for COVID; 

17 other DOE staffers have tested positive across NYC

SEP 11, 2020  5:01 PM

A Bronx elementary school had to be shut down after the city Education Department confirmed two people there tested positive for coronavirus.

The school, PS 811X in Crotona Park, will remain closed for 24 hours under city COVID protocols that dictate closure when two cases are confirmed within seven days of each other in the same location.

“As we get ready for in-person learning, we’ll stop at nothing to ensure principals, teachers, and school staff have the protections they need to stay safe and prepare for the school year,” said Education Department spokeswoman Miranda Barbot. “We are putting people’s health above everything else by quickly identifying and isolating positive cases.”

The Department of Education also confirmed Friday that a total of 17 other school workers throughout the city have tested positive since returning to work.

The schools they work in did not however meet the threshold requirements for closure because they were isolated to one worker per individual school.

Barbot declined to name the 17 other schools where workers tested positive but noted that those employees are self-isolating and the city’s Test & Trace Corps is investigating all confirmed cases to determine whether anyone connected to them needs to quarantine.

The Department of Education has so far tested approximately 15,000 staff members with most results coming back within 48 hours.

Testing is free and available to all DOE employees. Mandatory random testing will begin on Oct.

Here is more news:

New York City Patch

BROOKLYN, NY — At least two teachers in Brooklyn have tested positive for the coronavirus just two days into staff's return to classrooms to prepare for the school year. One teacher at M.S. 88, also known as the Park Slope Education Complex, and another at P.S. 001 Bergen School in Sunset Park tested positive for the virus, the Department of Education confirmed to Patch.