Two-thirds of the city’s unvaccinated students have not yet consented to be tested for COVID-19, undercutting promises from Mayor Bill de Blasio of robust testing in classrooms.
“These are not very reassuring numbers,” City Councilman Mark Treyger, chair of the education committee, said.
The numbers were shared for the first time during a City Council hearing, by First Deputy Chancellor Donald Conyers.
“We have 192,705 consent forms, to date,” Conyers said.
That’s only 35% of the approximately 550,000 unvaccinated students who are eligible for testing. If the city tested 10% of that small sample, the same students could be tested over and over again.
Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter says she isn’t worried about the low opt-in rate.
“We've seen evidence that all health and safety protocols are working, and so I'm going to also encourage parents, more and more parents, to get those consents in, and our schools are working to do it, but I'm not worried about that number. That number will continue to grow,” Porter told NY1.
Every school is supposed to test a random sample of 10% of its eligible population for COVID-19 each week. But the education department couldn’t say how many schools had collected enough consent forms to enable them to test a full 10% of their students, let alone enough to allow them to avoid testing the same children repeatedly.
“If you're asking for schools that have, that have surpassed or met the 10% threshold, I don’t have that data in front of me,” Conyers said.
It wasn’t the only data the DOE didn’t have. The department also could not say how many students had been vaccinated, or even how many were enrolled in public schools.
“That is just unfathomable to me, that is — I cannot accept this as an answer. So I'm going to ask again, respectfully. How many students do we have currently enrolled in our public school system?” Treyger asked.
“And I will respectfully say to you that I don't have that number to give you at this moment, chair,” Conyers responded.
Treyger says answers like that are why he's pursuing legislation to require the department to share weekly updates on things like attendance and vaccination rates.
"This should be basic. This is not, it shouldn't be controversial, quite frankly,” he said.
The education department says enrollment figures aren’t finalized until the end of October.