Wednesday, August 05, 2020

The Chancellor Sends Us Another Email

Dear Colleagues,
I hope you and yours are safe and healthy, and experiencing a bit of rest and relaxation this summer. You'd better get as much rest as you can now, because September's coming, and we have no idea what the hell is going to happen.
Last month, I wrote to you with information about our plan for blended learning in the fall. Today, I am writing to share details about some newly announced health and safety protocols, which we hope will work, but who knows? They didn't work anywhere else, but we think our way is the charm. Uncertainty is a constant during this pandemic, and our plans must be flexible enough to allow us to make excuses and weasel out of blame when they fail. But in all cases, your safety and the safety of our students and families would be the first priority—no matter what, if it weren't for my boss's reckless insistence on opening buildings.
We all experienced anxiety and alarm from the events of this pandemic starting back in March, as we failed to close public schools after having closed Broadway. Since then, we have been working diligently and in partnership with other city agencies to build on the lessons learned and prepare fully for a new school year. Last time we failed to follow our own rules and let Covid-infested buildings linger open for a long time. We are drawing on your feedback and on the best-available public health guidance to craft our plans for the fall. This is difficult, since we haven't asked what you want, but my magic 8-ball has gotten me this far.
Full details of the protocols are available on the DOE website. I also encourage you to read the plan we recently submitted to the State Department of Health, which Governor Cuomo says is an outline rather than a plan. Screw him. He doesn't pay my salary.

The major components of our health and safety planning include the following: 

·         Building Safety Measures: 
o   At all times, students and staff must wear face coverings protecting their nose and mouth while on school property or on DOE-provided transportation, unless students cannot medically tolerate a face covering or wearing the face covering is developmentally inappropriate. If other students repeatedly refuse to do so, we will remove them, maybe. How many times do they have to refuse? Well, you're likely as not infected after the first, so what's the dif?
o   School leadership and facilities staff in every school are reviewing school space and making necessary repairs and adjustments to ensure safe conditions. Sure, you've never had them before, but we're gonna try extra hard this time. TRUST us.
o   Schools will be cleaned throughout the day and disinfected each night, with special attention to high-touch areas. Sure your custodial staff is inadequate, we haven't replaced retiring staff in ten years, and they can't handle what they already need to do, but if you close your eyes, count to ten, and clap your hands, you won't see how filthy the building is.
o   School buildings will display signage on face coverings, hand washing and physical distancing.  We're hoping to get corporate signage so as to compensate for all the money we're gonna lose when the feds don't come through. 
o   Schools will be allowed to modify or reconfigure spaces to ensure compliance with physical distancing rules. By that we mean you may move desks.
o   As soon as we can think of other stuff, we'll let you know about that too. Or maybe not. Everyone loves a surprise!  
·         Test, Trace & Other Health Protocols:  
o   DOE recommends that all staff take a COVID-19 test in the days before the first day of school and monthly throughout the school year. But if you don't, what the hay?
o   If a student or teacher is feeling sick, they are required to stay home and, if their symptoms are consistent with COVID-19, are asked to get tested.  But if they don't, what the hay?
o   If a student begins experiencing symptoms in school, they will be isolated and monitored by a dedicated staff member until they are picked up by their parents or guardians. Good luck finding volunteers for this gig. But if they don't, what the hay?
o   Staff members who become symptomatic at school are asked to notify administration and immediately leave the building.  But if they don't, what the hay?
o   In the event of a confirmed COVID-19 case in a school, NYC Test + Trace and NYC Health will investigate to determine close contacts within the school. We will then cover it up for weeks while we pretend to act on it, just like we did last year before you finally humiliated my boss sufficiently to close schools.  
o   If there's more than one case in a school, and it's not in the same classroom, we will devote double the time to pretending we're doing something about it, and we will really hope that it doesn't spread so much that we have to close. My boss really thinks if we can stretch this out his political career will recover. (Hey, what's the difference between Elvis and de Blasio? Elvis is alive.)
o   There will be a clear flow of information to facilitate fast action and prevent spread. A positive confirmed case will trigger an investigation by the NYC Test + Trace Corps and DOHMH to determine close contacts within the school. However, once we hear about it, we will have to check if very, very carefully, just like we did in March, and hopefully we can get through to June without actually doing anything about it.

·         Screening, Entry/Dismissal and Movement Protocols: To minimize the number of individuals who come in contact with each other, and to identify potentially sick students and staff to the greatest extent possible, schools will be required to dismiss students one at a time, beginning at nine AM. Every minute, another student will be dismissed, and schools will develop individual bell sounds for every student in the building. It is our firm hope that, with bells ringing every minute, no one will focus on COVID or the ridiculous nature of classes of ten all facing one direction unable to speak to one another.
As a reminder, full details of the protocols are available on the DOE website. I also encourage you to read the plan we recently submitted to the State Department of Health, because I know you have nothing better to do. Cuomo was right. The plans are so vague I don't understand them myself. Nonetheless, I'm certain I've made them sufficiently unappealing that none of you really want to take time out and read them.

Additionally, principals and educators can see newly-released detailed instructional guidance and sample school-day schedules on the InfoHub. We have a great program that's six classes a day five days a week in blatant violation of the UFT Contract. We're hoping no one notices, and then we'll double it, triple it, and quadruple it until you're all working around the clock and we finally have enough teachers for our impossible hybrid plan.
You have done an extraordinary job of rising to the challenge of this crisis, and our city owes you both a debt of gratitude and a rock-solid commitment to your health and safety as we move forward together. If it comes to layoffs, I will feel deeply down, depressed and doubtful. But hey, a chancellor's gotta do what a chancellor's gotta do. 

Over the coming weeks and months, we will continue to devote valuable lip service to your feedback. I mean, it's not like we took a survey or anything, so your feedback is whatever the hell we say it is. Though we have an entire legal department devoted to depriving you of your contractual rights, though we failed to keep you safe last year, though many of you have gotten sick and died due to our gross negligence, we pledge to keep listening whenever we can't find a better alternative, to keep improving since we can't possibly do any worse, and to value your health and safety, and the health and safety of our students, above all else, even though we clearly failed to do that last year.  
In unity, 
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