Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Problems with NYC's school reopening plan - what can they be thinking?

Schools reopen next Monday, Sept. 13, only five days away.  Meanwhile, I have an oped in Gotham Gazette about the many problems with NYC’s school reopening plan.  Please check it out. Here it is in Spanish

Please also read this terrific oped in the NY Daily News from NYC principal Gabriel Feldberg about the need for more Covid testing in schools. He writes:

Children aged 5 to 12 have the highest COVID rates in New York City. Since the start of July, this age group has grown 10 times more likely to test positive. Now, across the city, the average positivity rate for children under 18 is roughly 5%. Do this math.

Five percent is one kid in 20. Public schools routinely have more than 20 students in a class. So how many classes will have a COVID case on the first day of school? Then, even with masks, ventilation, and other safety measures, how many cases will that give us by the second week? We won’t find out, because the New York City Department of Education plans to cut COVID testing in schools.

On Saturday, I interviewed City Council Chair of the Health Committee Mark Levine on WBAI-FM and the Talk out of School podcast about his concerns with the Department of Education’s  health and safety protocols.  You can listen to it above.  

Among other points, he said there should be an independent evaluation of the Intellipure air purifiers that DOE purchased for $43 million which has received scathing reviews from independent experts.

Since then, I noted that Governor Hochul and NY State Health Dept put out an order last week, which appears to require all schools to offer weekly testing to every unvaccinated student.

Yet DOE intends to testing only one tenth of unvaccinated students once every two weeks, despite the fact that NYC is in a “high transmission” zone.

Yesterday, the Daily News reporter tweeted that NYC claimed it had permission from the state to ignore this directive. 

Later that day:

None of this makes sense.  Why would New York state immediately backtrack on their own directive, which clearly said that schools were required to offer testing to all unvaccinated students weekly?

As I pointed out in my oped, the refusal of DOE and the Mayor to carry out sufficient Covid testing is particularly inexplicable, given the fact that FEMA  promised to pay for the full costs of school Covid testing.  In addition, as the Regulatory Impact Statement put out by New York State explains, 

The NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has received an award for [Covid testing] of approximately 251 million dollars.  These amounts are believed to be sufficient to offset any costs associated with any school-related testing such that the fiscal impact on Local Health Departments and schools is minimized.  Costs for testing can also be offset by testing that is offered under Operation  Expanded Testing which is free testing in K-12 schools and other congregate settings which is funded by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Department of Defense (DoD). 

So DOE has at least $251 million and perhaps unlimited federal funds to do weekly testing, but is choosing to actually cut BACK on testing this year, despite Delta and despite the lack of social distancing in schools. 

At the same time, they just released $350 million in federal funds to schools that can be used for almost anything except for hiring full-time staff to lower class size. Instead, these funds can be spent on more standardized testing, software, PD, and most any other far less effective way to improve learning. And they made this funding available just a few days before school starts, which ensures that most of it will be wasted.  Here's the list of schools, with the amounts.  

If you're a school administrator or teacher, outraged about the lack of Covid testing, please sign  this petition.  If you're a parent, sign this one, demanding a safe return to school.

No comments: