City teachers are returning to classrooms today, ahead of the September 21 start of in-person learning, but teachers at 21 schools in 10 school buildngs are working remotely do the ventilation issues.
In a press conference Tuesday morning, UFT President Michael Mulgrew applauded teachers for coming into open school buildings despite the challenges, saying “it’s the hard work of New Yorkers keeping our infection rate down, but now it’s the work of everyone who has dedicated their lives for the children of New York City, going into schools, preparing each and every building.”
Mulgrew said he understands the frustration and anxiety teachers may be feeling, having only seen safety reports for the first time overnight.
Officials said the 10 school buildings can't reopen until ventilation system and airflow repairs are made.
“Keeping everyone safe is our top priority. Inspections by the DOE and the UFT identified these serious ventilation issues, and we will continue to monitor these buildings and other schools to make sure all ventilation problems are solved,” Mulgrew said on Monday.
In a press conference this afternoon, Mayor Bill de Blasio said 1,485 public school buildings have been inspected, with 96 percent of the 64,550 classrooms passing inspection.
Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said that “repairs are being completed on an aggressive timeline” and that any building not ready by the first day of school will not be used.
The Department of Education expects to complete some of the repairs this week. It’s also identifying alternative spaces for learning if the repairs are not completed by September 21, when students are scheduled to return to in-person classes.
In addition, the Department said less than half of city school bathrooms have adequate ventilation.
One of the schools that needs an upgraded ventilation system is the Martin Luther King Jr. Educational Campus, where that video of inspectors using toilet paper to test air flow was filmed.
The list of impacted schools includes:
- PS 45- Horace E. Greene School
- PS 45- Horace E. Greene School (Annex Building)
- The Maxine Greene Hight School for Imaginative Inquiry
- Urban Assembly School for Media Studies
- High School for Law, Advocacy, and Community Justice
- High School for Arts and Technology
- Manhattan/Hunter Science High School
- Manhattan Occupational Training Center
- Harvest Collegiate High School
- Leadership & Public Service High School
- Fire Fighter Christopher A. Santora School
- The Riverview School
- The Florence Nightingale School
- PS M094
- Sixth Avenue Elementary School
- Success Academy Charter School - Harlem 1
- Success Academy Charter School - Harlem 3
- Manhattan Academy for Arts & Language
- Murray Hill Academy
- Unity Center for Urban Technologies
- High School of Economics and Finance
In addition to repairs, the Division of School Facilities says it’s installing portable high-efficiency particulate air filters in rooms, flushing air two hours before and after occupation, and upgrading filters when necessary.
While the city works on ventilation systems in schools, other challenges still have to be solved for. Kim Sweet, the executive director for Advocates for Children of New York, told NY1 the biggest point of friction for schools in the coming week will be transportation.
“About 50,000 students with disabilities along with students who are homeless under foster care have a legal right to transportation to school. And families still don’t know how their children are going to get to school once they start, so that is a huge outstanding issue,” she said on “Mornings On 1.”
“The routing is going to be more complicated than ever because different students are going on different days. Also families are really going to want to know what the protocols are going to be on the buses to keep their students safe,” Sweet continued.
Students were supposed to return to in-person classes on September 10. But Mayor de Blasio announced last week that the start of the school year would be delayed.
Remote learning is set to begin on September 16.