Mayor, Schools Chancellor Insist Most Buildings Will Be Ready For In-Person Learning Monday

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) New York City public schools began remote learning Wednesday, as teachers continued to voice concerns about in-person instruction next week.

While students logged on for the first time, faculty demanded learning stay this way.

“It’s not like I don’t want them here. It’s a simple fact that’s what’s best for them,” paraprofessional Celina George told CBS2’s John Dias.

“Remote learning saves lives,” said fourth grade teacher Ayana Goldman. “Our kids are supposed to be back on Monday. Our thermometers still don’t work. We still don’t have enough masks.”

Lack of ventilation is also a key issue for educators.

“The windows open this much, and that’s been deemed proper ventilation, even though we know that’s not enough,” fifth grade teacher Amy Parker said. “It is not safe right now, and if I were a parent, I would not send my child to school yet.”

Concerns among parents have also been growing. Many say if students return to in-person learning part time, there’s no guarantee of live instruction on days spent at home.

The Department of Education said it’s trying its hardest to ensure that.

“There are constant variables at play here,” Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said Wednesday. “Our goal has always been synchronous instruction every single day.”

Schools: The New Normal

This comes as the DOE shut down Public School 138 in Brooklyn for 24 hours after a second positive case in seven days.

Demanding Answers On Conditions At P.S. 63

The union chapter leader at P.S. 63 on the Lower East Side said the superintendent hasn’t even stepped foot inside the building. She did a Zoom call Wednesday instead of meeting them in person.

“But yet we’re in person, we’re here and we’re going to have children with us,” said UFT chapter leader Dianne Pannullo.

Her school has been posting for days about safety problems, leaving signs on the front gate and windows.

“We will absolutely send a team to P.S. 63 today to see exactly what happened,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said when pressed by CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez on Wednesday. “We will either be able to fix it immediately in time for Monday or we will not use that room until it is fixed. It’s as simple as that.”

But it’s not that simple, said Alexis Neider and Corinthia Mirasol Spath, whom Sanchez spoke to Monday about their poorly ventilated classroom at the Neighborhood School inside P.S. 63. They said they have no options if their windows aren’t fixed.

“One of the things that he said was we should not use our classrooms, we should go in another room. And right now there is no other room,” said Mirasol-Spath.

“There’s no backup plan that I know of. I think the only plan that actually is safe is to do remote learning,” Neider added.

And their safety concerns are shared by dozens of other schools across the city, including Bronx Studio School for Writers and Artists, where teachers and other faculty are boycotting their building and choosing to work outside.

“There’s still a lot of issues that the DOE has yet to solve. Teachers and students are being put on the front lines of this disease and exposed when schools aren’t safe,” teacher Vanessa Rozan said.

“We have no mechanism to push the air out, and there’s no HEPA filters. There’s no air filtration system,” teacher Jane Taylor added.

Ventilations is not the only safety issue at many schools like P.S. 63. They have thermometers that don’t work, and not enough personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies.

“They’re jeopardizing the health and possibly the lives of our community of educators and students and family,” librarian Cheryl Wolf said.

“I think right now we’re putting profits over people,” paraprofessional Louis Velez said.

Some teachers said the risks are too high and they won’t wait around for their union president to authorize a vote to strike.

“I would not rule out a strike. I would not rule out rolling sick outs. There’s a lot of strategy at our fingertips and, Mr. Mayor, we hope that you do the right thing. We hope you make the school safe. I don’t think you can do that by Monday. It’s already Wednesday. If you don’t shut them down and go to remote schooling, we will,” Neider said.

Students are scheduled to return to classrooms Monday, but 42% have opted to stay online.

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