After Four Confirmed COVID Cases in Hunter College Campus Elementary School This Week, School Refuses to Implement Tighter Safety Protocols Demanded by Union
New York, NY—Teachers at the Hunter College Campus Schools, who were hours away from striking over COVID safety three weeks ago (NY Times), gathered online today with their union to demand tighter protocols after two Kindergarten teachers and two students in separate classroom pods tested positive for the coronavirus.
“Clearly the protocols in place at the Hunter Campus Schools are not sufficient to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress, the union representing 130 Hunter teachers and 30,000 other CUNY faculty and staff. “Hunter needs to admit that there is a transmission crisis at the Campus Schools and start implementing every available safety protocol to make sure the crisis does not deepen. We are demanding better safety systems and that the procedures in place at all other NYC public schools be implemented at HCCS. How many more children and teachers need to get sick before CUNY acts?”
At a meeting with the union Saturday morning, Hunter Schools Director Lisa Siegmann refused to admit that transmission was occurring within the school and that additional safety protocols were needed. But under their current plan, teachers and specialists are exposed to multiple classrooms full of students, a situation that creates a transmission path for the virus. Elementary students sometimes mix at recess and during transitions, creating another.
Department of Education schools with linked cases in two separate classrooms would be required to close during an investigation of the transmission. The Hunter Schools are public schools run by CUNY’s Hunter College instead of the DOE, and so are not legally bound by the DOE safety standards for COVID. The Elementary School did close on Thursday, and school officials have said that a deep cleaning was conducted. The union asserts, however, that cleaning is not enough; what are needed are systemic measures to more effectively prevent transmission. Union pressure and a court ruling have forced CUNY to allow independent inspections of building safety, HEPA filtration and other changes to the school’s safety measures, but more measures are needed.
“We are all worried about our sick colleagues and friends. There are teachers who do not feel safe returning to in-person teaching Monday. We have people teaching in at-risk groups for severe complications from COVID-19 because they were not offered the accommodation to teach remotely. If any of these teachers were in these Kindergarten class, they could be fighting for their lives right now,” said Tina Moore, chair of the Hunter Schools chapter of the Professional Staff Congress.