Prestigious K-12 Public Schools Run by Hunter College Violated Own COVID Safety Plan, Installing Unproven “Air Purifiers” Instead of HEPA Filters
New York—The union representing teachers at the Hunter College Campus Schools (HCCS) has petitioned a State Court to grant a temporary restraining order and injunction against the City University of New York and Hunter College. The Professional Staff Congress (PSC) asked the judge to bar administrators from compelling its members to return in-person teaching at the public elementary and high school until real HEPA filters are installed in every classroom, as required in the school’s reopening plan. The union also asked the judge to direct CUNY to permit an independent inspection of the HCCS building and ventilation system.
The petition covers the fortress-like building with windowless classrooms located at 94th Street and Park Avenue and the Silberman School of Social Work on 119th and 3rd Avenue, where some students will attend class this fall.
“Teachers’ life-and-death concerns have been met with inaction by Hunter College President Jennifer Raab and HCCS Director Lisa Siegmann. Their demands for COVID testing, small classroom pods, independent inspections and other protections provided to students and staff at all other NYC public schools have been denied. And now we have learned Hunter isn’t even following its own, inadequate safety plan,” said Barbara Bowen, president of the PSC, the union representing 150 Hunter teachers and staff and 30,000 other academic staff at CUNY.
Authorities say rooms with ventilation systems inadequate for air filters that can remove COVID-19 virus particles (MERV13 or better) should be equipped with HEPA filters, which have been found to be more than 99.97% efficient at capturing airborne viral particles.
The HCCS Plan says portable HEPA filtration units “will be installed in classrooms which have ventilation systems that use recirculated air.” Instead, the schools have installed untested chemical air purifiers (not even filters) whose efficacy against COVID-19 or other viruses is unknown.
Remote instruction at HCCS began yesterday, September 21. In-person and hybrid instruction will start September 29 for grades K-6 and October 1 for grades 7-10 (grades 11-12 will start the year all-remote). Most of the school’s 1500 students will then begin hybrid instruction at the 94th Street building.
HCCS teachers pressed all summer for a voice in the reopening plan and have called for a delayed reopening of the building. They want to return to in-person teaching in buildings that have been proven safe with adequate health and safety protocols and an independent inspection