Friday, August 27, 2021

Mayor de Blasio Does Own Research, Errs on Side of Convenience Rather than Caution

The city now has a plan of sorts to open schools in a pandemic. I say "of sorts" because it's more notable for what it ignores than what it includes. In a nation where COVID is exploding, in a world where the Delta variant is booming back even in widely vaccinated countries, de Blasio's plan seems to assume things are looking up. Of course, this isn't surprising. He was totally unprepared last September, so why expect any improvement this year?

This year, the city is also not setting a threshold number of COVID cases to close a school. Instead, the city will only consider closures if there is “widespread transmission”... 

Of course. Why nip things in the bud when you can simply wait until things get really bad? Why set a standard when you can sit on your ass in Gracie Mansion and hope the inevitable doesn't occur? I speak as someone who detests online learning. I taught on Zoom for over a year and it tore my heart out. Just about everything I love about being a teacher didn't happen. However, IMHO, health and safety trump all. 

That's not the only questionable aspect of the city plan, though. It's cutting way back on testing, 10% twice a month, and not bothering to test those who are vaccinated. While I am very much pro-vaccination, that alone does not prevent the spread of this disease. If it did, highly-vaccinated Israel would not be grappling with a surge. That's not all, though:

Now, school closures will be on a “case by case basis,” de Blasio said, but a summary released by the DOE did not specify a definition for widespread transmission.

If we don't even know what "widespread transmission" is, how on earth can we depend on this plan? Are we supposed to hope our bungling mayor, whose aversion to common sense is widely documented, will suddenly make the right decision? More likely disasters will occur, public outcry will explode, and he'll have no alternative but to act. 

Here's another gem:

For middle and high school classes, fully vaccinated students and staff who are exposed to confirmed cases but remain asymptomatic can continue to attend school and will be “encouraged” to take a COVID-19 test three to five days after potential exposure.

In yet another "hope for the best" policy, we're expected to be optimistic that vaccinated people will check whether or not they've contracted COVID. If they don't, oh well, we "encouraged" them, so this isn't the mayor's fault. 

There is a little sense here:

For elementary schools, with younger students under the age of 12 who are not currently eligible to get vaccinated, a positive COVID-19 diagnosis in a classroom will mean all students will be quarantined for ten days while receiving remote learning

Finally, the mayor has taken a step back from his absolutist declaration that there would be no remote instruction. There will have to be remote instruction of some sort. We still don't know, of course, how many parents will flatly decline to send their kids to schools. We do know that students under 12 cannot be vaccinated. Will full attendance, or close to full attendance, conditions are vastly changed. It's beyond belief that under these conditions, the mayor thinks relaxing testing is the way to go. This is a recipe for disaster, and there's no need for it whatsoever. 

As far as I know, the city has not bothered to negotiate remote instruction with UFT. Personally, I'm willing to do Google Classroom again, and it's hard for me to imagine how we fail to use it, at least as insurance of sorts. That said, it's extra work. There needs to be an agreement, and the DOE's cluelessness in not working this out is typically short-sighted.  

Soon, along with my UFT colleagues, I'm going back. In an effort to attempt social distance, our obscenely overcrowded school has adopted a 14-period day. That's because the DOE, in yet another breach of promise, couldn't be bothered to find us additional space. The consistent lack of planning will certainly be costly, and very likely deadly. 

There's a new city commercial playing suggesting, "please get vaccinated." Please do. That's the least we can do. 

Unfortunately, the least we can do is far from sufficient.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Who Has Three Feet? Not NYC's Children

It appears the CDC, in its infinite wisdom, recommends three feet social distancing for schools, if possible. If not, well, do other stuff and hope for the best. However, it still recommends six feet social distancing for everyone and everywhere else.

Let's look at that, just for a moment. Is there anyone, anywhere, who thinks schools are less contagious locales than others? If you're a working schoolteacher, how many times have you brought less contagious viruses home? How many times have you had the flu?

Is there anyone on earth, other than the geniuses at the CDC, who can offer a rationale for having lower health standards in schools than in bars or restaurants, or anywhere else? In fact, Mayor de Blasio is asking New Yorkers to provide proof of vaccines to enter restaurants, bars, gyms, and other indoor venues. Why, then, is the chancellor simply asking students nicely to get vaccinated?

But hey, I'm crazy like that. I think, given we're facing a deadly disease, we should err on the side of caution. The mayor and chancellor, on the other hand, think we should err or the side of being agreeable, not offending anti-vaxxers too much, and hoping no one dies right away.  This notwithstanding, I'm just not feeling the love. 

Three feet is a pretty low bar, and we can't meet even that. We were able to largely keep students safe last year, but no one seems to point out that this was because we had far fewer students in attendance. With, theoretically at least, everyone in attendance this year, the notion of lowering our standards seems absurd at best, and fatal at worst. There are voices who see major issues here, particularly given the fact that most of our kids will not be vaccinated. Three feet of social distancing?

The 3 feet of physical distancing recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which SPS is following “to the extent possible,” is an outdated standard based on less transmissible variants

That, in fact, is an understatement. We already know they demand six feet elsewhere, and if anyone has a rationale for the lower standard in school buildings, I'm all ears. This is not how we keep our children and families safe, particularly given the more virulent Delta strain (not to mention whatever that mutates into). 

Last night, despite an impending hurricane, Mayor de Blasio saw fit to hold an outdoor concert in Central Park. You can imagine how that worked out.

I later read that the mayor, in his infinite wisdom, asked people to shelter in somewhere around the park, but after two hours it was canceled.  New Yorkers anxiously waiting to hear Barry Manilow to sing Copacabana had to watch him do it on CNN. I'm personally grateful to not only have missed the concert, but also the CNN segment, but hey, Barry's not my thing.

My thing is looking out for the students of New York City, along with my colleagues in the schools. It's pretty clear to me that Mayor de Blasio is happily sleepwalking through this emergency with all the planning and forethought he put into his abysmal and embarrassing 2020 presidential run. Unfortunately, the stakes here are much higher. 

I don't mind if Mayor de Blasio makes an ass out of himself. This is America, and he has that right. However, his characteristic lack of planning is less than charming when we're risking the lives and health of over a million New Yorkers. Someone who isn't insane needs to have a stern word with the mayor. Could it be the chancellor? Could it be us?

It doesn't really matter who it is. What's really important is when. With less than three weeks until schools open, we don't have time to play games.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Blaz Has to Bend

Mayor de Blasio, like last year, has no solid plan whatsoever two weeks before schools open. We already know that he's decided that social distancing will only happen if he deems it convenient. Perish forbid the city, rolling in federal cash, should find actual space for overcrowded schools.

The chancellor is now suggesting more testing will occur where the virus is more virulent. Perhaps, having actually taught for only a year and a half, she's unaware that city students tend to commute. 

So far, it looks like the theme here is separate and not equal either. Maybe the mayor and chancellor deem this a new concept. Where the DOE motto was once, "Children First, Always,"  now it appears to have devolved into, "Fairness, shmairness."

The most grotesque form of unfairness, actually, is out of the hands of the mayor and chancellor. That is the fact that no one under 12 is so far eligible for vaccination. Sure, people say that young people don't suffer that much from Covid. It seems, though, that that is nonsense, and our young people are at far more risk than we'd thought.  

If I had a child under 12, I'd think twice before sending her to school at 100% capacity. I can't imagine I'm alone at that. In fact, I can't imagine there aren't thousands, or tens of thousands of parents thinking the same thing. De Blasio is playing a game, hoping everyone will say, "Sure, I'll send my kid to school and hope for the best." Maybe those parents don't know that social distancing is only a thing when de Blasio finds it convenient. Maybe they don't know that the much-ballyhooed plan from the DOE to help overcrowded schools is to do nothing and hope for the best. Maybe they trust the mayor.

I doubt that, though. When parents decline to send their kids to school, de Blasio's DOE will have to accommodate them. I don't see him saying, "Screw you, send your kids to overcrowded schools, hope they don't get sick and die or infect others." That's too much even for him. 

Another thing that will happen, likely after it becomes popular elsewhere, is vaccinations will be mandatory for those eligible to receive them. If the city can mandate MMR vaccinations, it can mandate COVID vaccinations for all but those who have legitimate health concerns that preclude them. If LA can demand staff be vaccinated, we can demand it too. 

I'm mystified as to why people object. The fact is, employers can demand we be vaccinated. Of course, you do have the freedom to decline. If you want to go live in a cave somewhere, give up on the notion of work, and never go anywhere in public, you have that right. However, we are a community, and the very least we can do is to make sure our brothers and sisters don't get sick and die of COVID. If that's too much for you, maybe teaching is not the correct career choice for you. You can always be a hermit, or a beachcomber or something. 

I'm not at all sure where UFT leadership is on this. I'd conjecture they are moving in this direction, but slowly. Randi Weingarten seems to be considering vaccine mandates, which is a huge improvement over NYSUT's inexplicable and inexcusable opposition. I think Randi's move signals a willingness to accept the inevitable, and UFT leadership (as well as NYSUT's) will be on board by the time it happens. Ultimately, I can't imagine any union leader fighting for our right to infect our students and each other. 

It saddens me a lot to imagine remote instruction, because I personally can't stand it. I'm hopeful though, as a high school teacher, every single person in our building will be vaccinated or turned away. That's the only sane way to approach a full opening. I believe sanity will prevail here, though it may take some time. 

For my brothers and sisters teaching lower grades, I don't see how that's viable until younger students too can get vaccinated. It was remarkable that the city was able to open schools to the degree it did last year. With the intervention of UFT, opening was as safe as it could possibly be. I honestly don't see how that will be possible with everyone in attendance. I only hope the mayor doesn't wait until people get sick and die before coming to his senses.

This mayor is late for everything. I only hope we don't have to wait until we're discussing late teachers and students before he changes course.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Blogger's Day Off...

 ....but you can read my op-ed on the lack of equity at the DOE in Gotham Gazette.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Anti-social Distancing

I'm quoted in this Chalkbeat article on social distancing. Some say social distancing is not as important as vaccination. They're right of course. But there is a saying to err on the side of caution, and the city is choosing to err on the side of hoping that not TOO many people get sick and die.

One of the worst aspects of this idiotic thinking is that someone will, in fact, get sick and die. I'd say that will be on the conscience of Mayor de Blasio's DOE, but if they did, in fact have any such thing as a conscience they would not have allowed the rampant overcrowding that exists all over the city.

In fact, as true as it may be that vaccines trump social distancing, the fact is we have no idea how many of our students 12 and over will be vaccinated. We know that some UFT members are not vaccinated, and even though they're tested weekly, we have a vaccine variant that's as virulent as chicken pox. That means that people in schools, vaccinated or not, can acquire and spread the virus.

Of course we also know that no one under 12 is vaccinated. How can the city rationalize overcrowding by saying the vaccine trumps social distancing when so many students will have neither? This is a disaster waiting to happen.

Now I know schools may have plans to mitigate this. Of course, with school three weeks away, there's precious little time to accomplish this. Once again, Bill de Blasio and his band of DOE geniuses have left things until the absolute last minute, and once again we can anticipate a very messy opening. 

I hate to say this, but there is a tremendous chance that schools will close once again as a direct result of DOE negligence. One reason I hate to say this is I do not like remote instruction. Not on a boat, not with a goat, not with a mouse not in a house. I honestly do not want to do this job sitting on a computer. I love to teach, but I don't love looking at icons representing students who are sleeping. 

The grotesque incompetence of the DOE, which can't be bothered finding sufficient space for the kids it ostensibly serves, is entirely to blame. Too bad Jeff Bezos would rather go to space than find some for those who need it. For Bezos, de Blasio would move heaven and earth and buildings in Astoria.

For the actual children he's tasked to serve? 

Forget it.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Questions for the DOE Experts

I've no doubt the mayor and chancellor are working very hard to ensure a productive return to school for New York's 1.1 million students. That said, there are just a few issues I find confusing. I know that their watchwords are equity and excellence, and I have no doubt that's exactly what they're offering both our students and employees. They should, therefore, have easy answers to all of these questions.

We know PPE has proven vital in protecting the safety of both students and employees. There's really no substitute for it, and it was one of the factors that allowed schools to open even in the limited fashion they did last year. Masks are a big part of this. Last year, in fact, any student who wouldn't wear a mask was placed into remote instruction. Now that there is, at least so far, no remote instruction, what consequence will there be for students who decline masks? 

Ever since I've been teaching, there have been a lot of people who worried about students wearing hats in school. It's not a large concern of mine, but since I can get in trouble for allowing hats in my classroom, I ask kids to remove them during class. They do. However, in the halls they don't. That's because it's understood there is no consequence for wearing them. Deans ask kids to remove them, they do, and as soon as they turn a corner, they put them back on. If masks are treated the same way, there will be a whole lot of students who simply don't wear them. 

How would it be equitable to require students to wear masks, but allow those who don't feel like it not to do so? How would it be excellent to fail to protect students from infecting one another?

Another factor we used to control the spread of COVID was social distancing. Last year it was six feet. This year it's three feet. However, the DOE has let us know that some schools simply can't accommodate that. The number of schools involved seems to change every day, depending upon whom you ask and when you ask them.  However, I'm absolutely certain the school in  which I work can't handle even three feet, with full attendance. During passing, for certain, there will be no social distancing whatsoever, and we will be lucky not to be carried among waves of moving humans.

This represents a broken promise from the DOE, which assured us it would do something to help overcrowded schools, like provide us with extra space to prevent us from infecting one another. I happen to know they sat in negotiations with the UFT, and I happen to know that, for my school, at least, they did nothing whatsoever. However, the DOE assures us that most schools will achieve social distancing.

How is it equitable that the safety of some demands social distancing, but the safety of others does not? And how does your abject failure to help schools like ours represent excellence? If I were to fail my students like that, wouldn't I face consequences? Why are there none for you?

I applaud your decision to require either vaccination or regular testing of city employees. The truth is, I'd prefer mandatory vaccination for all but those whose health precludes vaccination. Still, your decision is as fair a compromise as there is, if there needs to be one. Why, then do you not have the same requirement for students 12-17? Are they not human? Are they not as capable as spreading disease as we are? Why on earth should we differentiate between the health of one group and that of another? Don't we value it equally among those who work, or study?

How is it equitable to mandate this for us and not for eligible students?

Here's my toughest question, though. I understand that who is eligible for vaccination is beyond your control. But what about students 11 and under, surely the majority of our students. In fact, given that we are not even sure you can provide masking or social distancing for them, how are they protected at all? Are you even capable of providing the testing we had last year for over a million students? Shouldn't parents of students who cannot be vaccinated have a remote option for their kids?

Yesterday I spoke with a parent who did not like the remote option. She told me that she really did not like her young children sitting in front of a computer all day. I understood that parent's argument, and you won't hear me arguing that remote instruction is as good as live instruction. As far as I'm concerned, there's no comparison whatsoever. 

However, as a parent, I value the health of my child far more than whether or not she masters fractions, reads The Catcher in the Rye, or knows the difference between enzymes and hormones. Maybe New York parents should have the choice of not placing their unvaccinated children into schools where it's doubtful you can maintain needed protections. With children getting sick and even dying from COVID, that's certainly an important concern. No child should die just so we can open schools.

How is it equitable that some students return to schools where their peers are vaccinated, while others simply do not?

I shall sit while I wait for answers to these questions. In my experience, the DOE is very good at making demands of those of us who do the actual work. As for looking at themselves critically, the most I generally see that is never. Nonetheless, I'd be more than happy for them to prove me wrong.

Thursday, August 05, 2021

Another Blogger's Day Off...

...But you can see me at about the 11-minute mark on this news show talking vaccines for UFT and students.

Tuesday, August 03, 2021

UFT Town Hall August 3, 2021

UFT President Michael Mulgrew-- Thanks us. Will post on website for those who are unable to attend. Over 21K registrants. Very tough in parts of country with low vax rates, but tough here too. Will discuss what we're facing and how to deal with it. One silver lining is people now know how imporirustant our work is. 

Everything, of course, is subject to change. We thought vaccines would make for a smooth opening. Will be better than last year, but still tough. We will deal with issues that come up.

Virus--We decided in March that we would use an independent set of doctors. Our decisions are based on their advice, and not politics. New strain is an issue, and doctors fear a strain resistant to our vaccines could develop. I love this union and its diversity. I also want you to understand we were able to make progress because we stick together. 

We are not going to say remote only unless doctors say so. We are telling the city there should be a remote option. NYSED sent out guidance. After what we've been through, they want us to do everything possible to get students in person, but that we ought to accommodate those who need remote. Mayor opposes this. We agree we want majority in person, because that is where they will do better. Doctors agree, if medically feasible. 

We are not, however, pushing against masks. And there is, in fact, no mandating of vaccines. Government can mandate it but has not. We are not supporting that at this point, but we understand best way out is for more people to be vaccinated, according to our doctors. You can't, however, say people who aren't vaccinated shouldn't be able to work. Our goal is to get out of pandemic. 

Mayor says all leisure activities require proof of vaccination. In terms of law, it's clear that government can mandate vaccines. Established in law in 1905 and has been tested in court. Everyone has rights, both people who don't want vaccines and people who don't want to get sick. Nonetheless, this law has been repeatedly upheld in diverse districts, regardless whether vaccine is emergency or authorized officially. 

We will defend our people's rights, and we do need more people vaccinated. Mayor has not mandated it, but we've been under mandated testing. Teachers will remain under mandated testing, but city cannot do so on students without remote option. Proof of vaccine means you do not have to be tested. We have asked for vaccinated people to have that option if they like, and I will update you.  

For people who are not vaccinated, testing is mandated, and that is now a collective  bargaining issue. Must be available at worksite during workday, or members should be compensated for own time. Some people say it's not fair because the vaccinated can also carry Covid, and our doctors think all should be tested if possible. They say that unvaccinated at higher risk of getting and transmitting Covid. They need to get to doctors quickly, especially given new strain. 

Governor has his own problems today. AG report pretty damning. NYSUT now calls him unfit for office. Governor did say he was considering mandating vaccines for teachers. Why only teachers? 

Federal--US DOE and White House saying setting policies to encourage vaccination. Would be better if they just said it outright. Policies may make it more difficult for unvaccinated to function. We go by what doctors say--more should be vaccinated. Vaccine isn't perfect, but most breakthroughs do not lead to serious illness.

We are opening in September. We have to make sure we do everything to keep people safe. We will retrain building response teams. Not happy with members saying people who choose to be vaccinated shouldn't do this work. We have to uphold rights and keep you safe with knowledge we receive from our independent experts.

Our story, already is amazing. Many people characterize us as selfish, but we went and established not only remote teaching, but also in person learning even before the vaccine. These people should shut up. Their points are ridiculous. We are the people who get this work done, and do so as a union. 

September--Thanks thousands who've been trained on what we want to implement. We have a five point plan out there. We have a team of people responsible for academic and social and emotional screening, what we call an intervention team. We have a very successful and safe summer school.

Class size--We have a small pilot, but also working on a solid piece of legislation. Courts have sided with city. Group of creative people came up with the idea of changing health code. We believe this time we will support court challenge. We believe the city, not the UFT, should pay for this, unlike in the past. Thanks all who helped push plan.

Academic literacy and numeracy--K-10--will do screening. Also social and emotional diagnostic for all children. Our students will come in, and some will demonstrate problematic behavior. We will train crisis teams in every school. We trained thousands in BRTs, and crisis team will also be important. Have had very constructive summer with DOE. We will train people in how to recognize trauma. I will send email about it. 

At same time, we need at least a few months to do diagnostic. We will see outward behavior right away, but we need time to see less obvious signs. Will start in October.

We will have academic intervention team for literacy and numeracy. Are already training people now. Will open training for all. Most literacy data will be computer based, except from K-2.  We want class rosters populated into computer system, and it is DOE responsibility to make this as simple as possible. DOE will supply computer platforms, and schools will decide how to organize, by grade, pull out, etc.

Our teams will inform us if things are either incorrect or unreasonably burdensome. Not standardized test, and no stakes involved. Academic screens will start Sept. 27 and completed by Oct. 22. Last week of October for makeup work. We will identify students who need more support as result of pandemic and provide intervention.

Social and emotional--Will start at end of October. Someone on staff who knows and works with child will determine who needs extra support. 

Safety--Masks will be mandated unless something dramatic happens. 

Overcrowded schools--DOE says they have figured out 3 foot social distancing for all schools but 50. We don't believe it. A lot of people don't understand we have schools with over 200% capacity. 

Ventilation will be issue. Cafeterias will be a challenge. We have been working with industrial hygienists, and cafeterias will be quite breezy, believe it or not. Trying to take best of recommendations. 

We are trying to undo harm and keep everyone safe. We may go from 85K to 100K tests a week. City will continue with policy of closing schools and classrooms as last year. If people have to quarantine, we don't want days to come out of CAR. Looks like DOE is being reasonable. 

Hopefully by mid-October systems will be in place and working. We were able to face issues well last year. We will have a new mayor, a new admin, and our contract will be up in a year. Will put together a huge negotiation committee inclusive of all chapters. We have to be prepared.

Last year was about safety and livelihood. This year will be a different challenge. Digital classrooms will be part of collective bargaining. Technically we are not at an emergency now. So this needs to be on table now. There will be classrooms closed down. We will do what we have to get to the end of this, and we won't be bullied into ignoring our experts. 

We hope mayor understands medical necessity for small number of students for remote. We'll fight for medical accommodations, but this year it won't mean work from home. 


Q--Covid protocol--Will disinfecting protocols be put in place, how often random testing, and what is closing protocol?

A--Cleaning protocols adjusted to current evidence, but not much of a change. That turned out to be easier than we anticipated as DOE was supportive. Minimally last year was 85K a week. Will maintain at least that, and hoping for more. This time we will have 600K more people in buildings. Commitment now is for every other week. Classroom and school shutdown protocol will be the same. Three related cases shuts down building. Will send email with policy. We don't think remote teachers need to be in building.

Q--UFT members who are parents--what if our children are quarantined?

A--At this point, DOE position is if you have to stay home for child care, they will not entertain relief for CAR days. Labor relations for NYC would have to provide this benefit for all city workers, so this is big issue with MLC. I'm not happy with this. 

Q--Unvaccinated teachers--will we be tested in school or on our own?

A--Mayor mandating this for all workers, but mayor either has to supply test during workday or compensate people. Their issue is every agency is different, but that is their problem.

Q--For people with medical accommodations, will there be options if they don't want to get vaccinated? Will there be a Covid leave of absence?

A--We've had these conversations with city. My position is city needs to supply a leave for people unwilling to work under current conditions. Trying to get a leave in place for that. This is important. We are working on it.

Q--What if students refuse to wear a mask and there is no remote option. Teachers Choice?

A--TC is officially back. We will see how much money there is and divide it. Can start spending now, however. We dealt with masks last year. We've asked--last year we sent these students to remote. City now says they will get back to us on this. We've had some children in D75 and elsewhere who had difficulty, and members wore shields. City needs to get back to us and tell us what they're doing. 

Q--Programming--What happens to other classes that share a closed room?

A--Program as though it's a regular school year. Except for 50 schools, it should be okay. In HS setting in between classes will be challenging. School has to have a conversation about how they're doing that. Will be a challenge. 

Q--Procedure for isolation rooms?

A--We will have that answer and will train BRT to deal with it. Thankfully, we already have a lot of people dealing with that. 

Q--Permanent school nurses?

A--There are big efforts for that. In fact, this is a big issue for Eric Adams. City Council has put aside more money for it and everyone is on same page. Next September I believe we will have nurse for every school building. 

Q--Arbitration for spring break?

A--It's filed. DOE is upset at that and class size legislation. Too bad. They blame governor, but his order left it up to localities. CAR days were nice, but they agreed not to use that in arbitration against us. Our position is they made us work for five days. 

Q--Google classroom--We got an email saying we need to set one up within next two weeks. Has that been discussed?

A--No, not set in stone. Forward email to us. We understood under emergency working conditions. This is not. We have to get back to basic labor laws. Not condition under which we were hired. 

Q--Diagnostic testing--Who is doing that and responsible for it?

A--Most schools will handle that well. We have an agreement there will be a professional learning team, majority of which is UFT. We will train, and provide outside support. Then school will come up with a plan. If something is onerous or unfair, contact us. 

Q--Distancing--If rule is 3 feet, what happens during lunch when school is using cafe for other purposes?

A--That won't work. Can't be final plan. We have a process to prevent that. Contact us if there is issue.

Q--Since you have access to ventilation experts, would love to see video.

A--We already have one. It went viral. Our industrial hygienists made it. Some teachers were freezing when they didn't need to. We now have air purifiers everywhere. Depends on type of building you're in. Pushing heavily to get this for all school buildings, and want schools retrofitted with federal funds. We have a school in SI that uses less energy than it produces. That's the model.

Q--I'm an itinerant teacher. Will we be tested in every school? What will we get for classrooms?

A--Can't put you in crowded spaces. You will get a lot of PPE. We'll make sure you get all you need. We have a team working on this right now. 

Q--Per session retro checks?

Mike Sill--We will send out dates. Will come in next few weeks. August 17 for active members.

Q--Disappointed ERI didn't pass. Dead this year, or will it go through Albany again?

A--I was disappointed, as were all city unions. City said they needed all people, and they have hired quite a few people this year. We're going to hire a lot of people, but we don't know how many children are coming back, and we won't know. For a few years, there will be funding in place. I think there will be another opportunity in next year or two. The amount of work that went into that ERI, and it just sat there. We all felt the same way. Very sorry we were unable to get it done. Those who sponsored bill are upset. If we see opportunity, we'll go at it again. That's what we do.

Thanks us again for taking time on August afternoon. We will be sending instructional plans as soon as they are hammered out. Your questions help us plan, and suggest things we hadn't considered. Will be another town hall before school begins. Hope you're having a much better summer, and very thankful for all you do.

Sunday, August 01, 2021

Now the Kids

We've made some progress here in NYC, and it looks to be happening in many places nationwide. Of course Florida loves COVID, and that's why they vote in troglodytes like DeSantis. But a whole lot of people seem focused on survival. If only we could get the new generation of Trump-inspired anti-vaxxers to understand, but I digress. 

The compromise de Blasio struck is now being replicated all over the country. If you want to go to work, get vaccinated or be tested weekly. It's a great improvement do any goshdarn thing you please, the Florida policy soon to be replicated elsewhere. For those of us who teach high school, our students are eligible for the vaccine. My feeling is they should be subject to the same policy as employees. 

One argument I've been offering to those who say the state has no right to place anything in our bodies is that our students are required to be vaccinated. Many times I've had nurses step into my classroom and tell students they would have to stop coming in unless they were vaccinated. I don't know about you, but I'm kind of glad we don't have to worry about things like smallpox and polio. It's remarkable that the first time in our lifetimes we've faced a deadly disease there is so much resistance to vaccination. If students have to get vaccinated, we do too. We simply are not so special that we merit an exemption.

Months ago, I remember people saying we ought not to come to school in person until there was a vaccination. It seemed untenable because we had no idea when there would be such a thing. At the same time, there were voices from many quarters saying we should just go in regardless. This made a lot less sense to me. Fortunately, the testing regimen we used was able to keep most people safe last year. 

Now that we have a vaccination, I'm really amazed by a lot of the resistance. I can understand some people, recalling how their people have been screwed over and over by the government, being wary. I really do not understand people who watch Fox and deem themselves rugged individualists. I remember being in East Berlin in the 80s, seeing Pravda sold on every corner, and seeing absolutely no one buy it. What does it say about us that millions of us suck up similar crap from Fox?

Meanwhile, for those of us not yet mired in delusion, it behooves us to not only be as safe as possible, but also to keep everyone else just as safe. That means every student 12 and over needs to be vaccinated or tested weekly, just like us. Just as we ought not to have vaccination privileges our students do not, they ought not to be excused from those required for us. 

Sure, Mayor de Blasio will get pushback if he asks kids to be vaccinated. Personally, though, I'm willing to take that risk. I'd be fine with him getting a few more bad headlines, and in the long run, the only route for him to salvage his lost rep will be to stand for reason and drive us as far as possible out of this apocalypse. 

And let's not forget children under 12. Pfizer expects to have data on safety for that age group by the end of September. If we push to mandate vaccines for students 12 and older now, it will be that much easier to push them for younger students later. It's the smart thing to do. 

Despite that, NYC should do it anyway. Let's make this the exception that proves the rule.