The city teachers union blasted City Hall Monday for pledging to ease school COVID-19 closure rules.
“A proclamation is not a plan,” said United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew. “The city can’t change the two-case rule without Albany’s approval.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio said the current protocol — which closes buildings when two or more unrelated cases are detected — will change “in the coming days.”
Pressed for specifics, he would only say that the new standard would require more than two cases to shutter a building.
The UFT opposes any change to the existing format, which has triggered the temporary closure of hundreds of city schools throughout the year.
The union has argued that the coronavirus has not been subdued to the point where closure rules should be softened.
Critics — including an increasingly active and angry group of parents — counter that the protocol was devised at the height of the pandemic and that the landscape has since changed.
Improved infection rates and the availability of vaccines, they contend, warrant a fresh approach.
But de Blasio’s efforts in that direction face gusting union headwinds.
In arguing against the unspecified changes, Mulgrew asserted that kids now pose the greatest COVID-19 threat.
“Thanks to the availability and effectiveness of vaccines, the percentage of adults testing positive for COVID has declined,” he said. “But students now account for two-thirds of new infections. We have been talking to our medical experts, and will continue to discuss these issues with the city.”
Parent-activist Daniela Jampel, who has been vocal in pushing for a wider school reopening, has called on the UFT to identify the doctors they get counsel from.
“We have several dozen doctors on the record who say the two-case rule should be abandoned,” she said. “The UFT keeps saying their independent experts tell them they should keep it. They don’t name them. Why? I think they need to. Otherwise our kids’ education is being held hostage.”
The head of the city principals union said he backed the need to reassess the current system but critiqued de Blasio’s approach.
“We understand the need to reconsider the ‘two-case rule,’ with input from health experts, to provide greater consistency for students,” said Council of School Supervisors and Administrators president Mark Cannizzaro. “Unfortunately, the Mayor’s announcement today once again leaves families and educators with many unanswered questions.”
Citing the new closure rules, the city extended a deadline for parents to enroll their children in blended learning, which has kids alternate between classroom and home learning.
Roughly 70 percent of all students in the country’s biggest school system are still on a fully remote schedule.
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