United Federation Of Teachers Expressed Deep Concerns With City's COVID-19 Safety Protocols; Mayor Changes Mind About Outdoor Classes

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza are not backing down from their plan to reopen schools on Sept. 10, despite the United Federation of Teachers expressing concerns and threatening a strike.

On Wednesday, the UFT released its school safety report that said no school should open until there are uniform requirements and testing and tracing protocols in place.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

The union is also calling for each school to have a COVID-19 response team in place before school starts.

“I know how overwhelming this may feel, but I want to reiterate something that the mayor has said and I, also, have said: that if it’s not safe, we won’t reopen,” Carranza said at the mayor’s daily press conference Thursday.

Carranza and de Blasio have spent this week trying to convince parents and teachers the city is prepared to keep students and staff safe during in-person classes.

MORE: UFT President: All Students, Adults Must Have Evidence They Don’t Have COVID-19 Before Being Allowed Back In School

“Even though New York is down with numbers, I feel that it’s still not safe for kids to actually congregate in schools,” said Anthony Josey, a Long Island City resident whose nieces and nephews are sticking with remote learning.

Other parents said they were OK with sending their kids into school part-time, but worried about how the Department of Education is preparing for September, CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis reported.

LINK: CLICK HERE to read more about the city’s school safety plan

UFT President Michael Mulgrew said Wednesday he wanted de Blasio to know that he’s deadly serious about a job action or teachers’ strike, adding he’s even willing to go to jail to protect the health and safety of students and teachers and anybody else that goes into a school building, CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported.

“Every single person, both adult and child who is to enter a New York City public school, must have evidence that they do not have the COVID virus,” Mulgrew said. “Within 10 days of a school opening that you must go for a COVID test and have a negative result before you will be allowed to enter that school building.”

The city’s plan currently states teachers will be asked to undergo testing for COVID-19 in the days leading up to the school year, and anyone who feels sick should stay home. There are also contingency plans in case of an outbreak.

WATCH: Mayor De Blasio’s Thursday News Conference:

On Thursday, de Blasio introduced a “Back To School Pledge,” highlighting the amount of hand sanitizer and PPE available in schools, among other aspects of the city’s preparations.

“We work for the parents and the kids of New York City and we owe it to them to get it right, and we will. So, everyone is working together to make sure the PPEs are in place, the signage, the cleaning, the disinfecting, you name it. That work going on literally every single day,” said de Blasio.

“Some of it is more advanced and technological. Some of it’s really old school,” he continued. “Opening up windows. Some school classrooms have windows that were sealed shut. We’re opening them up because, what the doctors tell us is fresh air is actually one of the very best ways to fight the coronavirus.”

A Department of Education spokesperson fired back at the union’s threat to strike, calling it “fear mongering.”

De Blasio Does About-Face On Outdoor Classes

Mayor de Blasio has apparently come to the realization that some school ventilation systems aren’t up to snuff. He has suddenly changed his mind about allowing schools to hold outdoor classes.

“Yeah, we’re going to work with every school community to maximize outdoor use,” de Blasio said Thursday afternoon.

A City Hall spokesman told CBS2’s Marcia Kramer the mayor is expected to issue guidelines next week for school use of outdoor spaces.

“We’re going to talk about the way to approach it city wide, but the weather is still the weather,” de Blasio said. “There’s a lot we can do with outdoors and some things we can’t.”

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The use of outdoor spaces has gained steam as the debate on the safety of in person learning has raged. Some 4,000 people have signed a petition demanding to use of outdoor space for classes, lunches and even outdoor recess.

Brooklyn Councilman Brad Lander led a rally outside City Hall that was attended by students, parents and educators.

“Our schools need more than guidance. If we’re going to do this, schools need access to tents and gear and that cannot only be for schools that have PTAs that can pay for tents and gear,” Lander said.

“If we’re shutting down all of these roads for restaurants, we can do the same for schools because education is such an important right,” a fifth grade student named Raya said.

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