Tuesday, July 21, 2020

UFT Town Hall Tuesday, July 21st

by special guest blogger Mindy Rosier-Rayburn

3:15 UFT President Michael Mulgrew: There's lots to discuss and there are lots of challenges we are facing. Today, I'll do a quicker report and focus more time for your questions. Right now, there are too many questions and not enough answers. I've been doing lots of media lately and City Hall wasn't happy. Too bad.

We don't have a plan in place and everything is being worked on. However, we will not return unless it is safe. We are the glue that helps keep the city together but we are not babysitters. The Mayor has finally understood this and he needs to deal with this, not us.

What we are looking at; The Heroes Act.
We can't open without this act. Thanking all who helped with this vigorous campaign.  Looks like the democrats and republicans are fighting over who does more for education. We know where we stand. We stand for safety, our profession, and our livelihood. Amything less is unacceptable. 

State came out with their opening plan.“Creating a framework to reopen New York’s schools has been an undertaking of paramount effort, made even more difficult by the devastating impact the pandemic has had here in New York State,” said Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa. “This framework and the guidance which will follow allows schools to plan for the upcoming school year under three different scenarios that aim to keep our children, educators and school personnel safe and encourages equitable access to high-quality services for all students.” Districts need to have plans ready by Aug 7th and submit them to the state for approval.

Florida is suing to not open their schools. They are at a 21% positive rate. We are at 1.17%. It's really bad out there.

The numbers are lower here but we have no final plan for safety. How do we deliver instruction? How will be safe?

Medical accommodations have started and parents received an email, regarding opting out of in-school instruction.

Two things we are planning for. For in-person instruction, how will we make each building safe? With remote instruction, how will it be delivered?

If we do not open, we will be 100% remote. If we do open, we are looking at approx being 60% remote factoring those with medical accommodations. 

Remote instruction needs to be built out. Central system will not be a mandate. It has shown to not work right. Each school will  need a platform. 

In-person; Six feet apart, masks, extra PPE on top of the mandated amount may be necessary, hand washing, etc. Thanking the nurses again for all the training of the effective basics needed. Ventilation is a very big deal. Certain schools won't be open because of air flow and ventilation issues. We are checking all the schools. We are making sure schools will be getting all the needed cleaning supplies and we'll be changing all filters in the schools.

There are no agreement on COVID testing yet. Should all be tested? I think it is something we need to do. Recommendation from a doctor we work with, is that there should be random intermittent testing moving forward and everything should be monitored, even the neighborhoods.

I understand the sentiment of why are we planning to open. If you ask should we open right now, I would say no. We must plan and be prepared. Majority of the teaching will be remote. Now we have medical accommodations that are meant just for the member, according to the law. We are trying to work on something for those with vulnerable household members.

How do we coordinate instruction with the live teacher and the remote backing force? We need to have the scope and sequence to ensure a continuity of instruction. This is a real issue and challenging issue.

We have offered different suggestions. There are all these questions with school based folks and district based folks. How do we coordinate? TIme spent right now, should be coordinating and nothing else.

You heard me rush this report. There's still so many unanswered questions. More unanswered questions for safety. We have no money, but on paper the plan meets safety demands but how will it be fully implemented? CSA is very frustrated because there's no real guidance from the DOE.

My answer right now will be NO to opening the schools. We must plan to be fully remote. We must plan in case we do open. We must be ready for all scenarios. 

Right now, there's no trust, no faith in City Hall and the DOE. We still have a ways to go to even say it will be safe to go back. This is not easy stuff. We never faced anything like this before and hopefully we won't ever again.

My biggest fear right now, that because of the rest of the country not doing what it's supposed to, that it will come back here and we will have to shut down again. Safety, profession, livelihood...these are our priorities.

We've been working with parents and now it has shifted on to the Mayor to work on childcare for them.

This is the damn worst summer of my professional career. We must keep preparing for both scenarios. We admire our childcare providers for all the work they do. We are teachers and we are prepared to move in any direction to help our students. This is about us too. There's lots of fear and anxiety, like in so many of you.

The call to question (about opening or remaining closed,) will be called on the last week of Aug and then we will see where we are at. Lots of things that must be done to get there, if it gets there.


Q- Medical Accommodation;  If you have a condition can you be denied? If granted, will you be attached to your school?

M- When you accommodate you are attached to your school. If you have one of those CDC medical conditions, it should be granted. Haven't heard of any denials. There will be NO excessing! Been hearing this rumor going around. There will be no excessing if you get approved for a medical accommodation.

Q- What progress has been made for all schools having a nurse?

M- We are not opening without a school nurse in every building. End of story. They said now that  they would after lots and lots of discussion. I want to thank all of the nurses on this committee.

Q- Surveillance system trackers for nurses can help document what's going on with the families in the school and have access to data that would show what's going on in the school community.

M- Contact tracing is still being discussed. Things should have started to be planned a long time ago. We are also now too far out to see what's going to happen in Sept. Overall, they didn't seem to understand our safety needs. This is very important work.

Q- Today at our remote staff meeting, our principal said kids don't have to wear masks.

M- NYC has been very clear. We can adjust PPE based on the needs of the child. Still a district's decision. Principals you work for, works for the NYC & the DOE. She follows our guidelines.

Q- Will buyouts happen?

M- Buyouts are being discussed, but MLC won't do anything, until they see what the government will do. All budgets have been decimated. This is why the Heroes Act is so important in upcoming years. The MLC is clear, not at this moment. Not holding my breath. If it happens, I'm sure people will take it up.

Q- In person, will you be responsible for both live and remote teaching?

M- No. Your 30 kids will be 3 classes. We are not going to allow them to overload teachers with being remote too . This is why we need a scope and sequence. In HS may be a bit different.  There should be live only teachers or remote only teachers.  No combos.

Q- What about childcare for teachers on Long Island? How will we be able to follow each other remote/live?

M-  Remote teachers must be able to coordinate with live teachers and vise versa. The coordination in this is a mess. This is where my anger is coming from. The DOE wouldn't start creating a plan. It's been months.

Q- If I tested positive, would this affect my CAR days? Remote?

M- We are sticking by the rules we already came up with, that if you test positive your CAR won't be affected. A period of time would be needed for after quarantine to return.

Q- If I have no AC in the classroom, are we all expected to wear a mask?

M- Yes. Air conditioners can be a negative for air flow. We are on air flow like a laser. Different buildings have different issues. We are testing the air flow now in all of the buildings.

Q- Who will be responsible for temperature checks and background checks of who was positive? Students can be remote or live, will we have that same option?

M- Every school building must create a building response team that will make sure that every role is handled. If procedures aren't followed, people will be put at risk.
Safety has to be assured when doing any of this. Every school has to come up with their own plan for safety. DOE, CSA, & UFT will all talk together to work things out. You can get a medical accommodation. We streamlined the process to get the answers quickly. As of now, if you don't get approved for a medical accommodation, you can take a leave….if we open.

Q- I don't trust the DOE nor the Mayor. I can see them saying "you're going back" and we are saying "no." Then what?

M- I will just say this, I am preparing to do anything I can to make sure we are safe. This is all I will say on this call.

Q- I went to get a test today to visit my vulnerable dad. Right now there's a 14 day turnover. What pressure can the union do to increase the turnover? City MD

M- Because of what we went through, NYC started building its own capacity to create their own labs. National labs will take 14 days because of what's been going on everywhere. There are two day labs in the city. They assured me that every member can be tested. They will be able to do it over a ten day period. We need these results in 2 days. Critical.

Q- Will I be required to teach out of subject if I get an accommodation because I'm a specialty theater teacher.

M- I've seen amazing work remotely from theater arts teachers. Our students will need this. This creative outlet is very important.  Remote teachers should coordinate.

Q- Based on the models; this will make it difficult to complete the curriculum for the year.  Will we be expected to complete the curriculum for the year? Penalized if we don't?

M- Everything has to be adjusted. We have people working on this now. State education is also recognizing this now.

Q- Shouldn't parents have to submit a medical note for no masks for their children?

M- There has to be a doctors' note as to why the child cannot wear a mask. The Mayor is saying 75% wanting their kids back. Misleading. Parents are on the same page as us. It's got to be a disability or medical reasons with documentation.

Q- In Oct, we are supposed to get the last lump sum of our retro. Status?

M- It's there. Everyone was concerned about our raise, we got it. If the Heroes Act comes through, we will need to see the details. Right now I don't see how we could get through the next two or three years without layoffs without the money. It becomes, "what's the devil in the details." As for our retro pay, there's no reason to touch it. It's there.

Q- D75; We want to know what your take is on severe students, with biting, hands on, toileting masks, etc?

M- These are the things that we are dealing with, with the nurses. A lot of those students have underlying medical conditions. PPE in D75 would be different from general ed. Until a plan is put in front of us, school based nurses have clearly shown us that there are smart ways in fighting this virus. Whatever happens, if we get back to any kind of in-person teaching, we will all have serious training.

Q- D75; Our main office has 8 to 10 people. How will we be protected?

M- Masks and plexiglass. That's where everyone stops in. Main office staff must be protected. Airflow check-ins are for every single room.

Q- Are we still negotiating the days from spring break? Parents need to go to work, kids come in medicated, how do deal with those sick children?

M- Nurses need to be in every school. Child is sick, they see the nurse. Three unions involved, and we are negotiating full pay for those seven days.

Q- I'm a 33yr veteren, teach PE in small HS that's shared with two other schools. What is the protocol for PE? Normally I teach 30-40 kids at a time. I'm their sole PE teacher.

M- PE teaches in a gym with windows open, they know what to do. We do not have protocols yet for equipment.  Lots of cleaning will need to be done. Coordinating with the other schools to see how you can make it work is very important. The DOE will have to make it work.

Q-How long is the medical accommodation?

M- Period of health crisis.

Q- Plan for custodial accountability each night? Chancellor answers were very vague.

M- We have been in meetings, in person, all of us, with our masks on and social distancing, with the custodians, and buildings...we need to know exactly what the protocols will be. They've been sent backpacks of covid killer spray. We need those cleaning protocols in place. No deep cleaning took place months ago like the Mayor said. Everything is about safety. There must be a check and balances. One phone call, we can get a remediation done very quickly. We have to prepare and plan for everything.

Q- Deadline for the application for the accommodation is for July 31, what if you find out you're pregnant after that date?

M- We are telling people to apply by that date to fast track. You can apply anytime. Federal law.

Q- D75; Schools may not be able to accommodate early drop off or after school. Trying to figure out my own childcare and travel to a school which is not close, has been so frustrating. What can we do?

M- I have issues with the Mayor and the Dept of Health and of course the DOE. They have been good lately in trying to take things into consideration. Teachers will be teaching everyday, it's not just about childcare. We also helped each other during the pandemic. Hopefully these conversations will continue. It looks like it will come down to the end. Try to work out as much as you can in your school in case.

Q- Remote vs Classroom teacher, separate teachers but need to coordinate.  Where will those remote teachers be coming from?

M- Teachers on medical accommodations. Average classrooms will now be at approx 12 and we would need to at least double the staff if in-person. Medical Accommodations will be for remote. We don't have the capacity to meet the needs with the hybrid plan. We will not have 60 in a remote class either.

Q- Schedules?

M- Cohort schedules, 4 periods, lunch, coordination time with the remote instructors. This is the idea right now. There's so many challenges. We are trying to get the best instructional approach for each school. Again, recreating the old school day may not be the best way to go.

Q- If remote, will we be teaching our own students? How will I be able to teach my advanced students with limited time? How are we planning remote teaching as being a viable option for the regents?

M- Not even looking at evaluations.
We are talking with the state about the standardized tests. This isn't going to be easy but we would have to work on coordinating with others to fulfill the requirements. In regents and specialty classes, this will be a challenge. There isn't an answer for every question but we are trying to get them.

Q- How can we support parents? Can an individual school opt for remote only?

M- Schools can't say they will be fully remote. They need to submit a plan. If we open, there's a real possibility we will be remote. We made some progress in terms with where we were months ago with the Heroes Act. Still need more safety answers. There will be more Town Halls before the start date. Your questions help guide the work that is being done. Let's work with the schools, they know what they are doing. The DOE original plans weren't going to work.

When it was announced that schools were going to close, everyone jumped up and down, but we knew we had a lot of work ahead of us. We thought we needed two weeks and then the virus beat us down. We knew what we had to do. We were there for the parents. We started getting some relief, took a lot of damage, but we learned how to be disciplined.

Moving forward; School will be in session, I don't know if the buildings will be open. Nobody knows. If there had to be a decision right now, I would say no. We love our profession. We also need to take care of our own lives and family.

Thank you everyone for being on and asking questions. There will be more Town Halls with more question periods. We need to talk to each other. I like talking to you all because you all understand the safety needed. Take time, find that time to relax, deep breaths, and take time for yourself. Challenges are coming, and we need to take care of each other. We will figure it out.

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