Aug 19, 2020
United Federation of Teachers (UFT) Press Conference Transcript August 19
The United Federation of Teachers (UFT) held a press conference on August 19 to discuss schools reopening. They said schools in NYC are not ready to reopen. Read the transcript here.
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Michael Mulgrew: (00:00)
… [inaudible 00:00:00] that no New York City schools should open unless it meets the criteria, all of the criteria of our school safety report that we are to present to you here today. There is a coalition here of medical experts, parent leaders, citywide political leaders, community leaders, and a national labor leader, all to endorse this report. It is time for New York City to put forth a transparent, clear plan, under the guidance of medical experts, so that parents and teachers who have been stuck in this fearful dilemma of how to make an informed choice, so that we can tell them what the expectation is for every single school in New York City. It is time that all city schools receive the same support and meet the same criteria, so that all children, all teachers, all parents will understand whether their school is ready to open safely, in the health challenge that we all face.
Michael Mulgrew: (01:15)
So I’d like to bring up the graphic now of our school safety report. We’re trying to keep it simple, but each one of these categories has a lot of things inside of it. The first thing is the supplies. What happens at the school building the ventilation? Most of the things that we have agreement on now with the City of New York, all have to be in place in each and every school. I can announce to you all that the UFT has over 100 trained staff members who right now, as we speak, are visiting schools to check the conditions in terms of the ventilation, the PPE, the cleaning supplies, and all the other equipment that needs to be in place. If a school has all of those things in place, in terms of that, they get a green check mark.
Michael Mulgrew: (02:07)
Then after that, we need to make sure that each school has a proper plan, not a bunch of names on a list, that there is a plan for all of the procedures, how children are going in, who’s going out, which way they’re getting onto their buses and getting to public transportation. We have to make sure that if there is a problem in a school, someone with symptoms, that the procedures are in place, that there is a nurse there, we have an isolation room, that everyone understands their roles, that each school will now have a COVID building response team, that the school will act as a team. If a school meets both of those and gets the green check mark on both of those criteria, it would then move into what we’re calling the screening and testing phase, and not before that.
Michael Mulgrew: (02:54)
And the screening and testing phase is that every single person, both adult and child, who is to enter a New York City public school, must have evidence that they do not have the COVID virus. And that means that we are strongly recommending, at this point in time, for all adults and for all parents to first consider going for an antibody test. The antibody test gives us much more assurance. We would say our position at this point is that we would recognize that test for positive antibodies for two months, but if you do not have positive antibodies, then within 10 days of a school opening, that you must go for a COVID test and have a negative result before you will be allowed to enter that school building.
Michael Mulgrew: (03:50)
Inside of each of these categories, like I said, there are numerous different things that have to be met, but most importantly, we’re trying to keep this simple and transparent for all the parents and the teachers, once again. We don’t need a hotline to be set up if there is a problem. We want to assure the parents and the teachers that things are already in place before they enter the school. We don’t need a hotline to be called if there isn’t a person to handle someone with symptoms, that are demonstrating COVID-like symptoms inside of a school. We need to make sure that that’s in place beforehand. And then once we have all of the screening and testing in place, we then have a baseline, and then at that moment, that New York City must have a rigorous and extensive testing and tracing program, specifically customized for its school system.
Michael Mulgrew: (04:43)
What happened in March can not happen again inside of this city. We owe too much, too much to the communities that have suffered so greatly, but we also owe it to them to give them assurances that we’re doing everything as a city, a complete community, coming together to say that we are here to support and hold our schools, the most sacred asset of every community safe. So we are asking the mayor to adopt this school safety report. It is time. It is time. We can no longer have parents and all those who work in schools suffering, trying to make a very difficult decision. And I think if we could [inaudible 00:05:30] or remove part of that anxiety, if they see that everyone is working together, because these are not the mayor’s schools, they’re not my schools, these are the community’s schools, and this would be a community responsibility. Parents, teachers, elected officials, all working together to say that we in New York City, are doing everything in our power to keep each and every one of our school communities safe.
Michael Mulgrew: (05:58)
So I’d now like to introduce some of our panelists, coalition folks who are here today, and I want to thank first the medical experts who have helped me and the union throughout this process, when we said that we understand that New York City needs to try to open its schools, but at the same time, we have to do everything in our power that we do not start this spread of this virus once again. This city went through hell and came back, and we are not going back to hell because of shortsighted political agendas. So now I’d like to introduce Dr. Jackie Moline, the vice president of Occupational Medicine and Epidemiology and Prevention at Northwell University, to speak to our plan. Thank you Doctor, for being here.
Dr. Jackie Moline: (06:44)
Thank you, Michael. It’s a pleasure to be here, and I’d like to talk about workplace safety and health. Now, this isn’t the first time that we’ve been involved in school situations where there have been health issues, whether it was tuberculosis, whether it was Operation Clean House with asbestos, whether it was lead in the schools, whether it was dealing with H1N1, dealing with Ebola and concerns for those communities, particularly in Staten Island. Now we have COVID-19. One of the tenets of occupational medicine, is prevention, and the prevention is through a strong plan that has the elements to protect everyone going into a school. Michael said something to me several months ago on a phone call where we were having a conversation with folks from the mayor’s office and a number of different health professionals. And he said, “We are working to keep clusters of people away from congregating, yet, when we think about opening the schools, we are sending hundreds of people into an enclosed environment. And so, we need to think about the safety rigor that has to be in place, in order to ensure a safe school for our staff, for the teachers, and anyone who might come in from the community.”
Dr. Jackie Moline: (08:12)
We’ve talked about making sure that the ventilation is appropriate, and there are guidelines that have been set forth on what needs to be done to make sure that the physical plant is optimal in each school, making sure there’s appropriate PPE. Being in healthcare, of course, we understand the role of PPE, and have been dealing with both shortages and the necessity, and seeing how it can protect and save lives. We need to ensure that there’s an adequate supply and that people are trained in how to use it properly. You can’t just throw people masks without making sure that they know how to wear it appropriately, and what are the appropriate scenarios for different folks, having different levels of personal equipment. There also needs to be comprehensive testing and most importantly, contact tracing to ensure that anyone who may have symptoms, are followed up so that the spread might be mitigated in a community.
Dr. Jackie Moline: (09:13)
We’ve seen recently that a rush without a plan, whether it’s the University of North Carolina, whether it’s Notre Dame, whether it’s schools in Indiana that opened and closed the same day, or schools in Georgia, where school children returned to school, there were rates of disease because no one was tested before they went in, and the schools were closed that day. What we need to do is have a comprehensive plan that will cover all the bases so that the schools are safe for our children, for the staff, the teachers, and that we can give the best education to everyone, free of fear. Thank you.
Michael Mulgrew: (09:53)
Thank you, Dr. Moline, and really, again, thank you for all your assistance. I’d now like to ask Dr. Mark Jarrett, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer for Northwell Health to address what we are presenting here today. Thank you, Dr. Jarrett.
Dr. Mark Jarrett: (10:07)
Thank you for inviting me to be on this panel. We all recognize what happened, as stated before by Michael, in March and April, and certainly on a personal level, in what is a longer professional career than I want to admit, this was the hardest thing I’ve ever dealt with, and I do not want to go back to those months again, in terms of our communities. We all want to open schools. We are all parents or grandparents, and recognize what it means to keep children out of school.
Dr. Mark Jarrett: (10:40)
Yet, this is not just a school issue, this is a public health issue. And I say that, because a resurgence that can occur because of this, has greater impact outside the school buildings, as well as in the school buildings. Clearly, we want to keep our children and our staff safe. There is more and more evidence now, in fact, the WHO said this morning about increasing spread due to people in the ages of 20 to 40, who are asymptomatic and spread the disease, and we certainly know that children may not be symptomatic and spread the disease. So it is not just whether children will catch it like they will get colds during the fall and the winter, it’s the fact that they’re going to bring those home. And when they bring it home, it could be to their parents, it could be to their elderly grandparents and thus, spreads from one to the other, to the other, and results in quite frankly, catastrophic illnesses for people who have various comorbidities, or are elderly, or have diabetes and other medical problems.
Dr. Mark Jarrett: (11:46)
So this goes beyond the four walls of the schools. Clearly, we want to keep, as I said, the staff of the schools, as well as the children safe. That is our prime responsibility, but it is also our responsibility to the rest of New York. We do not, nor can we afford another resurgence. We have had such a hard hit in the spring, and if you walk around the city and see how many closed businesses there are, how many people have been hurt economically, this is a really tremendous impact on us. And we need to figure out a way to get back to normal, but we don’t want to slip further backwards, which will make it even harder, and especially it hurts sometimes the communities that are most vulnerable, which makes it even worse.
Dr. Mark Jarrett: (12:34)
So I think that coming up with a plan that we all can agree on, that we feel is safe, we’ll never be perfect, there will be spread sometimes in the schools, this is an infectious disease, that’s the reality, but to have ways to mitigate that spread, ways to quickly close certain areas, close maybe a classroom or a whole school, and have a methodology in advance, as said by Dr. Moline, so that we’re not just trying to figure out what to do when the emergency happens, but to plan for it, because we know what’s going to happen. That is really the key in this, and that will hopefully not only allow parents to feel comfortable sending their children to school, allow schools to continue, but also protect the rest of the community in New York City. Thank you.
Michael Mulgrew: (13:21)
Thank you so much, Dr. Jarrett. I’d now like to ask Dr. Michael Mina, and I want to thank him also for taking the time to do this and for giving us his guidance. He is an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. Thank you Dr. Mina, again for your guidance and for being here today.
Dr. Michael Mina: (13:45)
Hello, everyone. I’m sorry. We’re having a little bit of trouble being able to hear.
Michael Mulgrew: (13:52)
We can hear you, you’re fine. We can hear you.
Dr. Michael Mina: (13:55)
Michael Mulgrew: (13:56)
We can hear you.
Dr. Michael Mina: (13:57)
Okay, great. I’m an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology. I generally have been working in the coronavirus response boat since January, February. And in the capacity here, I think that the efforts that are being laid out, these are pretty tremendous times, and there are tremendous activities going on to try to keep the schools safe. And I think throughout this, I’m really happy to take questions that anyone might have, and I can speak towards any of the individual components of the program that are being laid out. But in general, I think that things like antibody testing and getting people tested on a routine basis, are going to be particularly important to ensure the safety at the schools as they begin to open up. And I’m happy to take questions that are raised as we go along.
Michael Mulgrew: (14:57)
Okay, thank you so much, Dr. Mina. We will be doing questions shortly. And now I’d like to ask someone who’s been a staunch advocate of the children, especially to special needs children in New York City, one of the leading parent advocates of the city school system. Gloria Corsino is the co-president of the Citywide Council on Special Education, and I thank her again for taking the time to be here today and for endorsing what we are asking the city to now adopt. All right, you’re on mute. All right, is it her or us? It’s her. Gloria, you have to unmute.
Gloria Corsino: (15:46)
Michael Mulgrew: (15:47)
Gloria Corsino: (15:48)
I was talking to myself. Good morning.
Michael Mulgrew: (15:50)
Gloria Corsino: (15:54)
This pandemic, as it has hit everyone else, has affected children of all school age, but children of District 75, the most vulnerable students have had the most regression. I am the proud mother of two special needs children, and the regression is real. I had shared with Mr. [Harmon 00:16:19] yesterday that the blessing that I have had with my children’s educators, their paras, the staff, has been amazing. My children’s educators took it upon themselves after class to come visit my children. They wanted to make sure that my children did not feel abandoned, that they did not feel that they were lost in the system. Their engagement was key to making sure that they needed to see my children as much as my children needed to see them, and that went above and beyond their call or responsibility, and I’m grateful for that. As a parent, it speaks volumes to what we feel.
Gloria Corsino: (17:10)
I, like anybody else, wants my children back in the school building. It’s essential, it’s a need for them. It’s a need for everyone. But I also want everyone to be safe, including the people who are educating my children. I would never want to jeopardize anyone’s safety, let alone my children. I want the truth like you guys do. I want the staff to have the proper protective equipment, because if they’re protected, my children are protected. I want the school buildings to have proper ventilation. I want everything to be in working order, before I allow the most precious gifts that I have to walk into any school building, and I think I speak for every parent when I say tha.t. You guys, and parents are not asking anything that’s unreasonable. We’re asking for the safety of everyone that has to work collaboratively, and I want to champion that for parents, and from this perspective, and we need to work collaboratively so that everyone is safe in that building. I had also offered that I think as stakeholders, we’d love to be part of that walkthrough to make sure that whatever you’re seeing is not there, we can see as well, and who can better support that then parents who have been educated on walkthroughs look like? So I’m advocating to be part of that, please. I’m here.
Michael Mulgrew: (18:48)
You have it.
Gloria Corsino: (18:48)
Please make sure that we have a seat at the table. We’d like to make sure that we are speaking truth to power with you guys, because it’s important for our children. It’s important for the staff that work with our children. So please, we are imploring you to include us in that, so that we can help you guys.
Michael Mulgrew: (19:08)
Thank you, Gloria. And of course, we didn’t want to have to ask you to do some of the work we had to, but as always, you are welcome, and we will welcome all the parents who want to work with us to do this work-
Gloria Corsino: (19:18)
Michael Mulgrew: (19:18)
… in terms of getting our schools ready. Thank you. I’d now like to bring Randi Weingarten to the microphone, because this really, over the last two weeks, it became clear to us that New York City was going down the same path as so many other school districts, and that was the last thing that we wanted to do. And we knew it became more and more of an imperative that we go out and push, and push everyone to understand that parents and teachers do not want what is happening in all of the schools districts we’re seeing across the country, happening here in New York City. And I want to thank her for her leadership in fighting with parents and teachers all across this country, but I also want to thank you for being a friend always to this union, and for taking your time today to be here.
Randi Weingarten: (20:15)
Thank you, Michael. And this is part of this new normal, where Michael and some of the medical staff are at the UFT, and so many of us are on Zoom, but I want to actually kind of lead off with how the UFT has been leading in this. As many of you know… Sorry, I hate sharing screens, so I’ll do it this way. We, in April, put together this plan about how to reopen schools, because as Michael said, particularly in New York, no one wanted to repeat the chaos that happened as schools had closed, and the fact that there had been no real national leadership in particular, in terms of this whole crisis.
Randi Weingarten: (21:10)
The UFT was indispensable in putting this plan together. The UFT has been working since April on trying to figure out how to reopen schools, how to do something in a way, as our amazing parent just said, that would really work for children, would work for educators, and frankly, before all of the resurgence of the disease, we could see around the country that 75% of our members said, if we could get the safety standards that Mike Mulgrew and the UFT had as part of that report card, they would be comfortable going back into school. Well, we know what happened since. This mishandling continued, Donald Trump decided to throw a wrench into all of the planning, and failed to do any of the work in terms of resources.
Randi Weingarten: (22:06)
And now, what you’re seeing is over 60% in a Peterson poll today, not one you would call a liberal poll, in a Peterson poll today, over 60% of parents and teachers say that they were very concerned about school reopenings because of, as Michael said, what has happened in the last few weeks, and over 81% of parents and the public, and you can see this throughout, it’s Democrats, it’s Republicans, it’s Independents, it’s people of color, and people who are white. It is almost unanimous in the United States that 81% of people say, we need to actually make sure that we can keep things safe. That is more important than reopening anything.
Randi Weingarten: (22:54)
So what do we do with this situation? That’s why what the UFT has proposed here right now, is so important and so profound. They have three basic issues here. One obviously was the community, the community spread, which Governor Cuomo and others have talked about. Two is this safety report card, which others have talked about. But third is this point that the doctors, and Michael Mulgrew and others have talked about today, which is so important, that kind of robust testing, tracing, and isolation situation. Because without it, even if you open, how do you stay open? That’s what just happened in terms of the University of North Carolina. That’s what just happened in terms of the Notre Dame.
Randi Weingarten: (23:44)
So you have to have a system that actually, particularly given that this disease is so asymptomatic and spread so asymptomatically, as the doctors have just said, you have to have a system where we can actually see and know the data, see and know who is infected and who is not infected, and if you don’t do that, you will never know until it’s too late. And then when it’s too late, it becomes a little outbreak, becomes a surge, as we have seen in the South and the Southwest. Is this my opinion? No, I’m a social studies teacher and a lawyer. I listen to experts. I listen to the experts that are on the phone and that are at the UFT, the doctors that are there. I also look at evidence, and if you look at South Korea, you see that evidence. We could say, “We should’ve, could’ve.” This is going to be an issue in terms of the election, about whether or not Donald Trump mishandled this. I believe he has, I believe the voters will see that.
Randi Weingarten: (24:49)
But right now it’s not, it is what it is, it is what we need to do about it right now to ensure that we can educate children and keep people safe, and that requires that kind of testing tracing system. That is exactly what South Korea did. And yes, when they have some outbreak, as the doctors have said, this is not risk rate, what they do is they can handle it because they have this kind of robust testing, tracing and surveillance system. Does this cost money? Yes, it costs money. And if L.A. can figure out how to find the money to do it, New York City can figure out how to find the money to do it. It’s not about having a hotline, it’s about following the science.
Randi Weingarten: (25:31)
So if it’s important to open schools, we have to do it gradually, we have to do it responsibly, we have to do it safely, and we have to have this kind of testing, tracing, and isolation process that Michael and the UFT has proposed. I applaud them for doing this. It is state-of-the-art, and it is the only way we are going to be able to be safe, and educate children. Thank you, Michael.
Michael Mulgrew: (25:54)
Thank you, Randi, very much. I’d now like to ask a person, who first and foremost, is a New York City public school parent, but is also in his-
Michael Mulgrew: (26:03)
Mose is a New York City public school parent, but is also in his role as controller of New York City gets to look at both sides, gets to see it from the viewpoint of the parent, as well as someone who understands what the community is truly crying out for in terms of transparency and a real plan. I’d like to bring Scott Stringer up to the microphone.
Scott Stringer: (26:22)
Thank you very much, Michael. For the last several weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to hear from parents across the city via Zoom conference, virtual town hall meetings with the parents who are worried about their kids and the safety of our schools this fall. Parents whoa re frontline workers, parents with preexisting health conditions, parents whoa re desperate to know whether their kids will be kept healthy and safe.
Scott Stringer: (26:49)
And that’s the first question I hear from parents. Is it safe? And more importantly, can we make it safe? Right now those questions have remained unanswered. We’ve said that we need clarity and creativity from City Hall, but City Hall hasn’t stepped up to the plate. And the reality is we have been waiting for these answers for too long. With just weeks to go to open schools we need to have a plan, and we need to have a plan that we can all get behind.
Scott Stringer: (27:19)
Today the UFT [inaudible 00:27:21] mobile plan is a real roadmap to safety with testing and protocols and actual people on the ground to keep our kids safe. We know the challenges that teachers face. They’ve risked their lives in the midst of this pandemic. They’re frontline workers, and they love our kids more than anything. Right now I really wish a chancellor and a mayor were here today announcing this plan, but the fact that all the advocates, speaker Johnson and so many others, are joined together to say let’s give this plan a shot. Let’s really take it to the powerful interests and say once and for all we care about our kid’s safety, we care about parents, we care about teachers.
Scott Stringer: (28:04)
I’m very excited because as a parent of a public school kids, third grader to be and a second grader to be, I worry about this every day. Can the most precious people in my life be safe? And I’ve thought a lot about this plan, and I’ve talked a lot with the UFT about this plan, and I am hopeful that we could adopt something this rigorous to give our kids an education they deserve to fight this pandemic. I just want to say to Randi Weingarten, to the health experts, to Michael who I know has had many sleepless nights putting this plan together, we need to get City Hall to step up right now to give us clarity, to give us the plan, to take the best of your science and elk and make a difference right now. I’m really proud to be here today with all of you. Proud to be here with Mike on the UFT and all the stakeholders who care so much about our precious kids. Thank you.
Michael Mulgrew: (28:57)
Thank you very much, Scott. I’d now like to bring up someone who has been a staunch supporter of our schools and has led us through some really treacherous times recently with all of the financial problems the city is now facing, the funding shortages that the school system is facing. All of these things fall squarely onto this man’s shoulders, so I’d like to have Corey Johnson address all of us here today. Thank you, Corey, for being here. And thank you for being a leader in these tough times.
Corey Johnson: (29:29)
Thank you, Michael. I think you just called on me. I’m having a little bit of a hard time hearing you, but thank you. Good morning, everyone. I’m Corey Johnson, speaker of the New York City Council, and I’m really honored to join this group this morning to talk about what is going to happen in the next few weeks for New York City schools, for the 1.1 million children who rely on our schools, and the amazing teachers that teach every single day and that had a really arduous final few months of last school year at the height of COVID-19 in New York City.
Corey Johnson: (30:09)
I want to thank UFT president, Michael Mulgrew, for organizing this and bringing us together. Michael has been a leader on countless critical issues through our city, especially during this really challenging time for our students, teachers and families. He understands that we rise and fall together. And the UFT understands that when we talk about schools we’re not just talking about teachers and students alone. We’re talking about the entire school community: custodians and cafeteria workers, parents, grandparents, and siblings.
Corey Johnson: (30:46)
This is why the safety reviews and testing protocols that have been put forth by the UFT, by medical experts that are on this panel today, and by parent and community groups are so important. We know that back in March there were mistakes that were made, and I don’t pin that on anyone, but there were mistakes that were made. We just have to make sure that we do not repeat some of those mistakes that happened back in March. Schools needed to be closed, but the advice of experts were not always done with urgent action or were sometimes delayed. And we know that COVID- 19 was already circulating throughout our schools at that time. Countless teachers and staff and students and their family members were exposed. We have to make sure that nothing reckless happens moving forward.
Corey Johnson: (31:47)
The sounds of nonstop ambulance sirens are still too fresh in the minds of many New Yorkers. And we have done a good job as a city collectively at keeping our numbers low over the last many months. We have to make sure we continue to do that. We cannot ignore those hard won lessons. So we have to make sure we do this safely. Safety must come first. And that means delaying in person schooling until appropriate safety measures are not just talked about, but are actually implemented.
Corey Johnson: (32:24)
I just want to end by saying that the UFT, and also the principals union, and so many of the parent leaders and the folks that have been on this call today, want school to open. We’re not saying do not open school. We are saying, let’s make sure we do it safely and smartly. It is deeply upsetting, honestly, that so many children have not been able to be connected with their school communities and with their peers over the last few months of school, but we know that it was done for safety reasons.
Corey Johnson: (33:04)
What we needed to be doing over the last many months since school’s closed down in March is to come up with an individual plan for every single individual school building in New York City to give parents peace of mind, to give teachers piece of mind, to give those school communities peace of mind. And so much of this revolves around rapid testing protocols for the entire school community. Make sure that the ventilation systems are working appropriately throughout those schools, that social distancing is possible. I know the controller, Stringer, has been talking about outdoor spaces during the warm months in school yards and other places to be able to have more adequate space for our children. So this is the work that we know will allow us to open up our schools safely and effectively.
Corey Johnson: (34:03)
This is about getting to a place to open schools, not about throwing up obstacles. No one is looking to throw up obstacles. We are looking to be able to do this safely to give people peace of mind and to make sure that everyone is safe. Children and students, teachers, custodians, cafeteria workers, principals, assistant principals, parents, everyone who is in a school we want them to be safe.
Corey Johnson: (34:31)
I want to thank you, Michael, for the hard work you’ve put into this plan. I want to thank Randi Weingarten for her national leadership on this every single day, talking about what’s happening all across the country. And my hope is that New York City will be a model. We will be the model for the rest of the country to show folks that we can do this safely. We can have social distancing. We can make sure that we are listening to the input of school communities and to the workforce. I want to thank you, Michael. Thanks for having me today. I look forward to continuing to support the safety around this plan by listening to experts who are weighing in and telling us how to do that. And with that, I turn it back to you.
Michael Mulgrew: (35:15)
Thank you very much, Corey. And we appreciate the kind words. Now I’m going to ask each of our three community leaders. But please don’t thank me. This is all of us together. This is really hard stuff. And I appreciate, and I thank you all for taking part of this process right now. I want to bring up someone who has always stood by the parents and the teachers and all the communities of New York City and been a fierce fighter, fierce, and has always said that the public schools are the most important commodity of our city. I would like the president of the NAACP New York State Conference, Miss Hazel Dukes, to address us. Thank you, Hazel, for taking time of being here.
Hazel Dukes: (36:06)
Thank you very much. Can you hear me?
Michael Mulgrew: (36:08)
Yes, we can.
Hazel Dukes: (36:10)
Thank you very much. And I am absolutely honored to join with so many of my friends. And let me give a real shout out to the speaker, Corey Johnson, and the city council members, Denise Miller, who assisted NAACP in this trying time of making sure that some of our children that have not had the resources they need, especially the computers and tablets, for what they did for us with discretionary funds this year. So thank you again, speaker Jonathan.
Hazel Dukes: (36:46)
Let me say to Randi Weingarten, my sister, and to Michael, we have worked on so many issues on education through the years. We can have a difference of opinion, but our focus has always been our children. Several months ago, Anthony Hartman, who’s one of the presidents of the 15 branches we have throughout New York City in every borough, we came together and we put together a NAACP education taskforce that was at the end of March. We looked at it and I had parents calling the office. We put a proposal together. We submitted it to the governor of the state of New York and to the mayor and the chancellor.
Hazel Dukes: (37:35)
I am so disappointed to report we have never received an acknowledgement of the proposal that we submitted. That was thorough. It started with health, it started with the resources, all they need. We have never had an acknowledgement from the mayor or the chancellor or the city of New York. We’ve heard from Dan Fuller at the state level. We’ve heard from commissioner Rosa. And so today I come on behalf of the 15 branches in New York City opposing anything that the mayor would say about opening our schools. He has not presented a plan to this community and to our parents.
Hazel Dukes: (38:20)
Survey is full of junk. We don’t do surveys well. And so today I joined hearsay that the plan that we have put together, Michael Mulgrew has looked at our plan and review it. We didn’t say it was the best thing since sliced bread, but we are saying we are offering something. So sit at the table with us, as the parents say, include us. We represent. We are in every community. We are in the New York City Housing Authority. We are there. We talk to people. We hear them. There are too many unanswered questions for us to say that we are going to open New York City schools. We will not, because if we open them on a Monday I guaranteed you on Monday afternoon we are saying we’re closing up. So I joined today, I heard the medical experts, which is great. I’ve heard from the elected officials. I’ve heard from the parents. Now it’s time for the mayor and the chancellor to hear from us before they make a decision on opening schools.
Hazel Dukes: (39:40)
You’re right. We all want our children back in school. We’re all concerned about the education of our children. When we think about the kids who are in foster care, when we think about the kids with disabilities, when we think about the kids who are in the shelters, there are too many unanswered questions on the safety, on the health and the learning of our children that we can support opening New York City schools. I am not happy with remote learning. There are a myriad of problems there. I don’t know whether they have been corrected because we don’t have any answers. We have no data to say what the mayor get on TV and say every morning.
Hazel Dukes: (40:31)
That’s not good enough for me. I’m intelligent. When the granny can show her proposal, when the UFT can show theirs, and the NAACP can show theirs, with data, with hard facts, then we deserve as New Yorkers for the mayor and the chancellor to do the same to all of us. So thank you for inviting me to participate. I’m here to support our children, our workers, our teachers, our custodian, our cafeteria workers, all the people that make up for quality and good education for our children.
Michael Mulgrew: (41:12)
Thank you, Hazel Dukes. As always, you just make sure everybody understands exactly what is going on. I do appreciate it. And I want to be clear before we get to our last two speakers. There are so much more the school system still has to do, but we can’t… For the mayor or the chancellor or anyone to be talking about all of the other things that have to be done without first addressing the safety issue, that is why we are having nothing but chaos out in the schools at this moment. Principals have received very little instruction, no clear directions, have been sent surveys to send to the state. We still don’t have a program in place to make sure that every single child will be remotely hooked up because no matter what we do this year every child will have… A portion of their instruction will be done remotely.
Michael Mulgrew: (42:02)
We have no plan in place for all of those things, but we can’t do any of that until we first have an assurance of safety. And then making sure that all of those children… There has to be inventories at each and every school that every child has translation services or assistive devices in case of their disabilities or the challenges they face here in the city. All of that is standing still because we still haven’t solved the safety issue. I’ll like to bring up the executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition and thank him for being here, Mr. Steven Choi.
Steven Choi: (42:36)
Thank you, Mike. And I just want to say how honored I am to be standing with such amazing champions and allies from across the field. I stand here today because we are in a period where New York’s immigrant communities have been devastated by this pandemic. Immigrant families have been hit so hard by COVID-19. Immigrant neighborhoods have seen so much of the death and illness that COVID has brought upon New York City. There are thousands of people in our communities, in immigrant communities, who have died. Tens of thousands who have gotten sick. So we absolutely need to be mindful of the health and safety of the cities and immigrant communities.
Steven Choi: (43:17)
Also, immigrant kids and immigrant families in our school system have been so disadvantaged in this moment. And we’re not just talking about some kids. This is most New York City kids. Nearly half of New York City students speak a language other than English at home. So we’re talking about millions of students, millions of immigrant families. And those kids deserve an equal shot at a quality education in a safe environment. We need to be thinking about all the challenges in this situation. Not only by parents of families potentially getting sick and dying, but also by the challenges of the situation. The achievement gap between kids is threatening to yawn even wider.
Steven Choi: (44:01)
I want to be clear. I want to join Hazel. I want to join so many other people. We’re all aligned on this call because we all want schools to be open. We want them to be open as soon as possible and as soon as practical. Immigrant kids have been affected deeply and negatively by this period of remote learning. The achievement gap is getting bigger. And so many immigrant families don’t have a childcare safety net during the day. More than half of our frontline essential workers are immigrant New Yorkers. But we are all on today. We joined with our allies to say we must do more. We have to do more before schools reopen. We need to make sure that all of our key elements are actually in place. And we love the plan that Mike is putting out there. To make sure that immigrant families and youth, that teachers school leaders and staff are safe and that everyone feels prepared going back to school. And we just don’t have it right now.
Steven Choi: (45:01)
I just want to highlight another piece. Another part of ensuring real safety and being prepared to open is having a system that’s in place that is quick and efficient to get information out to immigrant communities, out to immigrant families in their home language. They need to be informed as soon as other parents are informed. And that is not happening. We need to also make sure that input from immigrant families is going into the system as well. Throughout the pandemic there’s been a major, major challenge immigrant families information. How are you going to make schools safe for immigrant families if you’re not getting information out to them, and you’re not hearing from them?
Steven Choi: (45:44)
The digital divide and language access barriers have led to so much confusion among immigrant families, so communication by the DOE, by the city to immigrant families, hearing that back from them, that’s a critical part of any safety plan. And the city just needs to do more. We’ve had some progress. I think everybody will tell you here on this call, we’ve had some progress, but the city needs to do more. And we’re at a critical moment right now. So we are proud to join with our allies. We’re proud to join with our champions. Proud to join with the UFT in delivering this message. To mayor DeBlasio and to chancellor Carranza, we need to do more before we actually do this.
Michael Mulgrew: (46:27)
Thank you so much, Steven. I really do appreciate it. To Reverend Ford, I’m sorry, but I kept you to last on purpose because I thought it was important. And at this point in time, I’m ready to do anything that needs to be done to keep our children safe. The organization, the Arc of Justice, which you have founded, but more importantly I’m trying to do anything that could help us. So if you could bring the good Lord to try to bring some wisdom on people in this city and help us try to get through this endeavor, I would greatly appreciate it. I know it’s inappropriate probably for me to ask you to do that in a public setting, but I want to thank you for what you’ve been doing here across the city, but more importantly for being here today. Thank you so much, Reverend Ford.
Reverend Ford: (47:09)
Well, I want to thank you, Mike, for your exceptional leadership in a very trying time. Our teachers have always been a resource, not just an educational resource, but an emotional resource and a moral resource. I remember tragedy after tragedy where the teachers were on the front line, comforting our fallen, comforting survivors. I remember marching with Randi after the Pulse massacre. I remember marching with you, Mike. I remember the teachers joining hand in hand with the community in every crisis that we faced. And as always, we face another crisis and our teachers are stepping up in the absence of real clear vision and leadership coming out of City Hall.
Reverend Ford: (48:06)
Our mayor was elected promising to end the tale of two cities. And here he has given us a tale of two school systems. It is unacceptable to ask that our essential workers put their children on the front lines with no plan, sending their kids to schools with no plan, sending their children into harm’s way with no confidence that the city is prepared to protect them and provide a secure and safe environment. I’m grateful that you and the UFT have stepped up and provided a plan that parents can be competent in.
Reverend Ford: (48:49)
I’m not just an activist. I’m a parent of two public school kids, grade school kids. And quite frankly, my wife and I have decided we’re not prepared to send our children back into those school building. And it’s not because we don’t trust the staff or we don’t trust our teachers, but there is no trust in the leadership. In the absence of a real plan we cannot sacrifice our children and put them on a coronavirus yoyo. We can’t have our kid to get ready to go back into an environment that they have been missing and longing for, only to have that rug ripped out from under them prematurely because we didn’t plan. And now we have to shut the schools down again sooner than we had hoped.
Reverend Ford: (49:44)
The UFT provided a plan that parents can be confident in. If we, as a city, can come together and set ego aside, if we can come together and put public health above economics, then we can pull together. We can provide our students with the education that they are in need of and deserve. We can provide our teachers and our professional educators with the environment, the safety that they deserve. We cannot afford to lose another teacher. We cannot afford to lose any more students. There are still very many unanswered question about how this virus impacts young people, so we cannot turn our schools into biological research facility where we are asking our children to expose themselves to danger that we can’t measure at this time.
Reverend Ford: (50:44)
It is time for us to take a step back, as your plan calls for. It is time for us to assess where we are building by building, facility by facility. It is time to instill in the parent the competence that they need to encourage the parents with data, and with a confident plan of action. Should an outbreak occurred, should a child or a professional come back positive, this situation won’t balloon out of control. These are questions that parents have, their concerns that they have, and they are not concerns and questions that have been answered by City Hall. But yet once again, our teachers have stepped up. And as a parent parent I say thank you. As a father and a husband I say thank you to our teachers for what you have done, for the remarkable job that you did transitioning into a remote learning. It wasn’t perfect, but the intent was there, the will were there, and the commitment of our teachers was there and I’m grateful for it. I would just closed on this one last point. COVID has quite clearly impacted communities-
Reverend Ford: (52:03)
… point, COVID had quite clearly impacted communities of color and a disproportionate manner. We need to make sure that that does not bear true for our children, where we have asked the essential workers of our city, the people of color of our city to bear the heaviest burdens of coping. And now we’re going to ask their children to bear the heaviest burdens in the name of ego play, in the name of economic expediency, it’s not going to happen on our watch. I’m grateful for your leadership. We are prepared to do whatever is necessary to ensure that the city reopens schools under nothing less than the safest condition humanly possible. And that not going to happen absent the implementation of the UFT plan. So we’re with you, brother Mike we’re with you all the way. We’re with you, Randy. We’re together in this.
Reverend Ford: (53:03)
If we’re not going to reopen our schools safely and securely for all of our students, we’re not going to reopen our schools safely and securely for anyone. And the mayor needs to understand the resolve of the UFT. They need to understand the resolve of the civil rights community and the activist community. And most important, they need to understand the resolve of the parents of the 1.1 million students in the New York City school system.
Reverend Ford: (53:30)
We’re not going to let you play politics with our children. We draw the line of political games, and gamesmanship and brinkmanship. We draw the line around our children. It’s a bright red line that the mayor and you’re going to respect it. Either you’re going to respect it through force of our will, or you’re going to respect it through reason and rationality. But one way or another, Mr. Mayor, you are going to respect the will of our parents and our educated as we protect our children from what had been the most devastating and traumatic time in modern American history. And we’re not going to allow ego and politically expedience to inflict further trauma on our teachers, our educators and indeed our children.
Michael Mulgrew: (54:25)
Thank you, Reverend Floyd, I appreciate the strong words and all of the support on behalf of the teachers of New York City. So when now we’re going to start our question period. And before I take the first question, I will answer one that I know I’m definitely going to get.
Michael Mulgrew: (54:39)
If we feel that school is not safe, we’re prepared to go to court and to take a job action. And if a court deems that we are breaking the Taylor Law, so be it, we will deal with the ramifications of it. We have promised the teachers and the parents of New York City that we stand and fight if we felt a school was unsafe. And that is a promise, we are going to keep. Whatever happens because of us, that resolve will not be broken. That means we have to deal with all of the different issues of the Taylor Law in the courts. Again, so be it. But we have made that promise and that is a sacred promise and we will not allow that promise to be broken. So everyone has to understand that unless that school passes that school safety report, our position is clear. The school should remain in remote only operation. No one should enter the building and put themselves and their families at risk. So I’ve made that clear. Marsha first, and then you.
Michael, as I understand your plan, you would like every teacher, every principal, every adult, and every child to be tested for COVID 10 days before the school opens?
Michael Mulgrew: (56:11)
Or have an antibody test, which would give them at least two months that we would recognize.
So given the fact that there are by my account, 1.1 million students, 75,000 teachers and thousands of principals and cafeteria workers and custodians, how is it physically possible for that to happen and schools to open on September 10th?
Michael Mulgrew: (56:36)
Well, we don’t believe it is possible for schools open on September 10, and take the testing piece out of it. Even without the testing piece, it is our judgment at this point, as well as the Principal’s Union, that if you open schools on September 10th, it might be one of the biggest debacles in the history of the city.
And if I could just follow up?
Michael Mulgrew: (56:54)
The amount of testing that you’re calling for is massive. And do you think that at this point, New York City has the capacity to do that expeditiously and also continue to do it sporadically during the school year to try to find out if there are any clusters that might develop?
Michael Mulgrew: (57:17)
I believe with all of our private partners and as well as the city that we could develop a plan. The key here is we’re not saying every school has to open on the same day. Remember in our plan, the school has to first meet the first two criteria. Is all the PPE loaded into the building? Is all the signage up? Is the ventilation system up and running properly? Is there a plan in place for each of the staff that will be returning? Remember, we also have a major staffing challenge ahead of us. Of all of those, schools should not move forward with the testing process until it first has those two things in place, the procedures and all of the supplies. If you’re telling me that New York City is going to make sure that every school in New York City has those first two things in place all at the same time, I don’t believe it.
Michael Mulgrew: (58:06)
So there’s clearly a way to come up with a plan, working with the parents, being transparent about this, but getting everyone together to say, this is parents and teachers and medical professionals all working together. It’s not time, and this is what’s driven me nuts in the national debate. It’s everywhere they’re going to open a school, they try to pit people in the community, parents against teachers. Elected officials against union representatives, where at this point in time, the exact opposite should be what any elected official is pushing for. Everyone wants their schools open, but we don’t want them open if they’re not safe. So there’s clearly a path to develop this will of New York City. The business community tells us they want the schools open right away. And if we say, if you want to open right away, are you willing to chip in? Are you willing to help?
Michael Mulgrew: (58:58)
I can bring it to the medical experts who are here. This is clearly something we have thought through. We know there is no way at this point in time for the city to test everyone in a 10 day period. But you’re also talking about, we’ve already had almost 300,000 children opt out of live instruction at this point in time. And antibody tests can be done right now, right now. And for some reason, some twisted reason, I’m going to go to the doctors in a moment. We seem to have much better access to antibody tests than we do COVID test, but I’ll throw it over.
Dr. Mark Jarrett: (59:35)
Well, antibody tests are just blood draw, which obviously for a child is not the most pleasant thing. But the nasal swab for the PCR testing also is uncomfortable. But I think we have more capacity for antibody testing now than we can for doing huge numbers of PCR, nasal swabs. And although the CDC has waffled back and forth about what it really means in terms of immunity, it is certainly not the perfect measure right now, but clearly if someone has a history of COVID and now has antibodies, it’s probably safer to use that than saying I’m swabbing you today. And then are you safe a week from now?
Dr. Mark Jarrett: (01:00:17)
Because the swab only tells you at that moment, you don’t have the disease. So we have to parlay both together and use what we can, remembering that only depending on the community, it can range from 10 to 20 to 30% may have antibodies already and some communities have very high prevalence of disease such as Queens.
Do you accept either antibody test or the swab for COVID?
Michael Mulgrew: (01:00:39)
yes.. That’s why we’re saying we can do a lot right now, but we need the city to adopt this plan. And it’s highly recommended as the medical professionals have … which I’ve been telling the membership since I’ve started this process that the doctors have clearly said to me, that it’s really important for people, especially in a place like New York City to have that antibody test for their own medical knowledge.
Speaker 1: (01:01:07)
You want to see the start of school pushed back from September 10th. Do you want to see remote only September 10th, or something different? And do you foresee different schools opening on different days?
Michael Mulgrew: (01:01:23)
The plan we’re presenting actually says, unless the city can say it can get everything done by a certain date, then it would just be impossible to open the schools on September 10th. There was a reason why in April, in the beginning of April, we asked City Hall to start engaging in a process for a plan to open schools. If you want to go back and look, I do remember penning quite a few op-eds and going on many of your shows saying, we need to start planning now. We knew there was a fatal judgment when City Hall decided not to start engaging in a plan for opening schools until July. And because the size of our school system and everything that it entails in a regular school year, we start out planning in April. This is not a regular school year, clearly.
Michael Mulgrew: (01:02:15)
We have to deal with a pandemic. We have to deal with at this moment, more than 70% of the instruction has to be coordinated between an in person teacher and a remote teacher. Every student has to have all of their digital devices working. So just imagine this challenge, which is why we were screaming in April and then in May, and then at that point, it just became so frustrating because the mayor at that point just kept saying, we have plenty of time.
Michael Mulgrew: (01:02:42)
Last week he said, we have plenty of time. I don’t know what he’s talking about. We do not have plenty of time. There’s been an expediency since April. So if we can’t have these things in place, then no, the school system should not start on September 10th. If by some miracle, they can get everything done by September 10th. If they meet the criteria of this report, the beauty of this report is that everyone gets to see what has to be done. The parents get to see it, the teachers get to see it. Everyone sees exactly what has to be in place. If these things are in place, you can move forward. If one of these things is missing, you cannot move forward.
Speaker 1: (01:03:22)
So even if it’s remotely, you would prefer delay?
Michael Mulgrew: (01:03:27)
Without these safety procedures in place, then we would prefer a remote delay.
Speaker 1: (01:03:34)
Nothing starts September 10th?
Michael Mulgrew: (01:03:36)
I’m going to keep saying this, I can’t call for a specific date. What I’m saying, if a school meets this criteria, they should move forward. Overall, it’s my judgment that most schools, if any schools will not be ready on September 10th.
Speaker 2: (01:03:50)
It sounds like it’s safe to say you’re going to in court September 10th. Is that fair?
Michael Mulgrew: (01:03:55)
That really depends on the mayor. And whether he’s willing to adopt this plan and say that this is what we’re all agreeing on that needs to be done. So for the sake of the parents and all the communities to move forward. But again, the issue for us, the thing that will drive us to court or a job action, is if the mayor tries to force schools to open when they are unsafe.
Speaker 3: (01:04:18)
Michael, have you presented the plan formally yet to the administration?
Michael Mulgrew: (01:04:21)
I have discussed all elements with this plan, with this administration.
Speaker 3: (01:04:24)
And what was their reaction?
Michael Mulgrew: (01:04:27)
I’m waiting for them to get back to me.
Speaker 4: (01:04:28)
Plan that we can see and read that lays this out?
Michael Mulgrew: (01:04:31)
We will send you all the elements of each one of these things. The major piece here is on the building, the facilities piece, we have a complete list of things that would be checked. We have over a hundred people who are trained, and actually we have people in the schools today. We have people in schools last week, doing these walk throughs, doing these checks. Once they have all of those things in place at the school level, in terms of the physical plan, then it really comes down to the procedures and the school’s plans. Those are definitely lacking at this moment. The PPE loading and school cleaning loading is starting at this point. But the problem is, we should’ve started loading the schools in July, not in the middle of August.
Speaker 4: (01:05:17)
Just to follow up on that. Some of what you’re asking for, it seems completely impossible that the city will be able to deliver in terms of the testing. We know what the testing capacity is. What’s the deadline for deciding whether you [crosstalk 01:05:30]-
Michael Mulgrew: (01:05:31)
I believe when your mayor decides to force anyone into an unsafe situation is when we go. I’m going to make this clear. So I don’t have to get the question. The minute we feel that the mayor is trying to force people into a situation that is unsafe, we go. We go to court, we got a job action. That’s where we go. But I’m going to say this again, in terms of the testing, there is no issues with focusing on when schools already, whether it be by district or grade level to do the screening, just think about this right now.
Michael Mulgrew: (01:06:03)
If we screen every adult and child, whether it’s the antibody test or the COVID test. And we have evidence that they’re walking into school on the first day that is open without COVID. How many instances of asymptomatic spread are we stopping? If we don’t do that, we’re going to have the same stories that we’re seeing in Georgia, in Florida, in Mississippi. You will see the same stories here in New York City. So we’re not saying every school opens on the same day. We’re saying, make a plan, talk to the parents, discuss this with the parents, make sure they all understand what we’re trying to do is in the interest of that we want to keep their children and their families safe and we can all do this together. And on that type of plan, we have the capacity to do the testing and the screening.
Speaker 4: (01:06:57)
I’m not clear on this. So let’s say a student doesn’t have antibodies. So as far as-
Michael Mulgrew: (01:07:00)
So the need the COVID test within 10 days of walking into the building.
Speaker 4: (01:07:03)
But then when do they get retested? Because they could get COVID 11 days later.
Michael Mulgrew: (01:07:07)
So then at that point, once we have these issues in place, the whole idea is to minimize the risk of spread. Yes, nothing is perfect, but this plan is much more comprehensive than what we’ve seen in any other school system. Once we saw it, once that is in place, and now I’ll go to the doctors. It’s a very rigorous testing and tracing program, has to go into place, intermittent, random testing. I’m going to turn it over to each of the doctors who can speak to this, because this is a very big concern of all the medical professionals we’ve spoken to.
Dr. Jackie Moline: (01:07:42)
We’ve certainly talked to the city about doing a testing of all the staff and doing that on a monthly basis, so that you’re getting a sense of asymptomatic or presymptomatic spread within each school so that all staff would be tested on a monthly basis unless they have antibodies. And so there are ways of doing it, whether it’s alphabetical, whether it’s by some other means of doing it so that you get a true sense of what may be going on in each individual school. But not just doing it once to get that one point in time, but continuing to have monthly testing so that you will pick up where there might be an early cluster and understand that we better begin the contact tracing, if there’s asymptomatic positive results.
Speaker 5: (01:08:38)
If you test every teacher once a month, how often do you want to test the kids?
Michael Mulgrew: (01:08:42)
They would have to be part of the random testing also. So each school community would have to be part of random testing as long as we have COVID in our city.
Speaker 5: (01:08:51)
So you would say that every student would get tested once a month as well?
Michael Mulgrew: (01:08:56)
What I would say is that we need a percentage of people at each school, both adult and student would have to be tested in a random, monthly intermittent testing. Dr. Minot, do you want to comment on this? If you could hear what we were saying.
Dr. Michael Mina: (01:09:15)
I wasn’t really able to hear that question, but do you want to just [inaudible 00:01:09:19].
Michael Mulgrew: (01:09:19)
It’s about the intermittent, random testing after we establish a baseline by screening everyone and why that would be so important and what that would entail?
Dr. Michael Mina: (01:09:31)
Yeah, so it’s a little bit difficult, but I think that an intermittent screening, to really keep our schools safe, we are going to, there’s no way around it. This is going to be a massive undertaking. It’s going to be a very, very difficult thing. I think what is being proposed here is one of the most aggressive strategies for sure, for a large school system. But it’s also needed. There’s no question about that.
Dr. Michael Mina: (01:09:58)
I think having testing along the way is going to continue to be needed as well. I’m a proponent of much more frequent testing, but that’s at the moment, it is not actually really possible to have extremely frequent testing. And so intermittent testing, ensuring that we’re monitoring the school systems, we’re keeping track of where cases might be emerging. This is going to be absolutely critical to keep students. And this is a virus that I think we all know at this point spreads very quickly. There’s no way around it at this point to think anything different. And I agree completely that if these plans and processes are not in place before September 10th or whichever day the school system really starts, it is a very risky endeavor to open the schools. As much as I recognize the absolute urgency and need to get them up and these plans need to be put in place.
Dr. Michael Mina: (01:11:02)
And we have to not just have the plan for the first day, but there needs to be a plan continuing throughout the fall. This is traditionally, a very seasonal virus. And so what we’re doing today and the type of transmission that we’re seeing today might be just a glimpse of what’s to come in November for example or October where these viruses normally shoot up and we get coronavirus peaks typically in the fall. All of this points to this intense need to ensure that testing is widely available. And I think that there’s no reasonable argument at this point that that somebody should be going to school, who is perhaps not participating in these testing programs in some way. It’s important to keep population safe.
Dr. Mark Jarrett: (01:11:55)
I’ll just make one other comment, I’m sorry. And it’s not just a testing in a vacuum of the schools, but one has to also look at what’s going on in the communities around those schools. And we will know what rates are doing in terms of upticks in certain communities as we’ve had over the last couple of weeks in a few communities. And that might prompt more intensive testing, not just continuing. You have to have a flexible plan, that reacts to things going on in the rest of the environment. So it’s not that the whole city has to go up to a certain percentage, it may be even on a community basis. So that has to parlay into the testing routines as well.
Speaker 6: (01:12:37)
Excuse me. So I’m just wondering you guys keep pointing out there’s not enough guidelines to guide the schools to reopen safely, right? So I’m just wondering if you could specifically point out what’s with the current guidelines and also address, as far as I’m concerned right now, the hybrid model is letting the parents choose whether or not they feel it safe personally. So it seems to be more of a personal choice for the parents, right? So I’m just wondering also, do you think that there could be some middle ground, where maybe you could some way, ask teachers … because there are not everybody’s from the same mold. There are some teachers who do feel safe going back. There are some that don’t, of course. So just wondering if there’s any middle ground kind of treating it in a similar way, if there’s any compromise?
Michael Mulgrew: (01:13:25)
So in terms of the current guidelines, what was submitted to the state by each school was a survey that was sent by the Department of Ed, we’re the only school district that submitted surveys as our individual school plans. And there was no real instructions given to the principals of New York City, but you can talk to their union about it in terms of all of the different things and procedures that the school itself was going to have to do. And when it comes to a personal choice, the reality is that a lot about teachers and a lot of our parents that choice really is, do I go to work? Where do I send my child? Versus, do I have to stay home, because I’m my own version of childcare or as a teacher, I have to stay home because I don’t feel safe in what is being done inside of my school.
Michael Mulgrew: (01:14:14)
You’re then talking about families and communities that are put it in a position of safety versus their own ability to have a home, to take care of their family. And that’s the reality for a lot of New Yorkers right now. So we can say it’s a personal choice, but personal choices really look differently depending on the circumstances of an individual family or the individual person. So some people really don’t have a choice. And that is why in July, because after running a six week campaign saying we’re having a childcare crisis in New York City, no matter what we do, the mayor announced that he had a childcare plan for a hundred thousand seats. I haven’t heard him speak about it since. So there are real, hard choices, that people are sitting in their homes. And these are choices that are wrought with fear and anxiety that they have to make.
Michael Mulgrew: (01:15:13)
And what we’re trying to do here, all of the people here who came together today is we’re trying to remove some of that fear and lower that anxiety to some way to say, we are telling you, we’re trying to do things all together that will give you a better assurance that you can be safe to go the to a school to teach. That your child will be safe, if they come into the school, they’ll be better off now, if we do it this way versus the way that we’re headed right now, which is nobody has any degree of assurance about safety inside of our schools.
Speaker 6: (01:15:49)
Sorry, just a follow up question. So what about the social distancing measures really briefly? There’ll be less capacity of students. And this may be a question for the doctors, what is the risk? You’re saying right now we don’t have the proper testing capacity and PPE, right? So why is it still extremely, from what you guys are saying, extremely unsafe to send students back, even with proper social distancing measures and lower capacity in the buildings?
Dr. Jackie Moline: (01:16:24)
Have you ever been in a classroom with a bunch of kids? The reality is social distancing with young children is a challenge. Keeping masks on as adults is a challenge, but think about it with the younger kids, is a challenge. So PPE is not the first line ever. You want to make sure that it’s a protection, but you want to make sure that people don’t have the disease first.
Dr. Jackie Moline: (01:16:59)
And then you use the PPE as a secondary measure, rather than relying on it as the sole measure. Unfortunately, we’ve fallen into this, you must have the social distance and PPE, because we haven’t had what we should be having, which is the widespread testing so that we truly understood what disease people had. But that’s why there’s advocating for making sure people at least have an understanding of whether they have the disease now, whether they had it in the past. And then it’s critical to use the PPE as well. I’m absolutely advocating for the social distancing and the PPE as well, but it can’t be the be all and end all without understanding that it’s important to have rigorous testing and contact tracing, to identify where it may have spread.
Michael Mulgrew: (01:17:53)
Okay, over here. Allison, just let me know when you have to go to the online folks.
Speaker 7: (01:17:59)
Let’s go back to choice and making decisions. When it comes to the city-
Speaker 7: (01:18:03)
Go back to choice and making decisions, when it comes to the city, if they don’t adopt the plan and teachers don’t feel safe going back, what are you going to be recommending apart from going to court?
Michael Mulgrew: (01:18:12)
If we’ll go to court, as I said before I took questions. We will go to court. And if need be, we will start doing job actions to make sure that everyone is safe. We are not, not, telling people to go back to work. We will be informing parents as well as our members that the building, we cannot deem that that building is safe for them to enter without these things, the things that they are missing. I hope I had covered that right at the beginning. I don’t know how else to say it any more explicitly.
Speaker 8: (01:18:48)
How long ago did you present this plan to the mayor? Was it yesterday or a couple of days ago?
Michael Mulgrew: (01:18:53)
It was sometime last week.
Speaker 8: (01:18:55)
And you’ve heard nothing?
Speaker 9: (01:18:56)
Michael Mulgrew: (01:18:56)
Speaker 10: (01:18:59)
My question is for the doctors. Have you guys taken account in your plan about AFM, which the CDC is going to be a problem in September and also about multi-system inflammatory disease in children out breaking during this time too, that could be going rampant with COVID-19?
Michael Mulgrew: (01:19:15)
That’s definitely for you guys.
Dr. Jackie Moline: (01:19:15)
I’m sorry. What was the first part?
Speaker 10: (01:19:16)
AFM, which is Acute Flaccid Myelitis, which they’re saying there was an outbreak in 2018. The CDC is saying that in September, they’re seeing a trend. I was on a conference call with Dr. Redfield, and he was talking about how there’s going to be challenges with COVID-19. And also you have multi-systems inflammatory disease in children that’s goes rampant too. So does your plan account for that?
Dr. Mark Jarrett: (01:19:46)
Part of that plan is, it’s the same issue we’re looking after the hospitals as well. The question, will reality is, especially for young people, children who are in grade school, is the fact that the fall is the time when they all get other diseases, other respiratory diseases. The flu may come out at that period of time. I think there’s no way to test for everything and look for everything. I think certainly in terms of the reaction to COVID and what happens to children was said by one of the other people, we really don’t know. And the numbers were small thankfully in the spring with children affected, but we’re going to have to see what happens in the fall. And that’s why we really want to reduce the number of cases of COVID.
Dr. Mark Jarrett: (01:20:35)
It will be difficult. The child comes in with the sniffles or what sounds like the flu. Could it be COVID? If they can’t be tested at that point, they should go home. They should be evaluated and go home rather than stay in the school. That’s why you need a really rigorous plan about what do you do if that child comes in? Because, when they have a fever and they have a little cough, it may have nothing to do with COVID, but we’re going to have to be overcautious in this regard, because unfortunately we don’t have that testing that will tell us right then and there, that minute, what’s going on.
Dr. Mark Jarrett: (01:21:07)
And even in terms of the hospitals, what we’re doing for various viral testing, we’re trying to figure out now, because it’s going to be the same problem in adults. And it will happen with the teachers and the rest of the staff as well.
Dr. Mark Jarrett: (01:21:18)
What we’re hopeful is that, Australia right now, thankfully, it’s been a very low incidence, low prevalence of flu, probably because everybody’s social distancing and wearing masks. And that is very effective for the flu. More effective than it is even with COVID. So we’re hoping it will be a mild flu season. Obviously, people should take their flu shots. That we’re doing, But for children, it’s very hard. They get a lot of respiratory illnesses. We all know as parents, in the fall and it’s real hard to differentiate. And that’s why, again, knowing that the population is less likely to have COVID makes it easier to deal with that issue.
Speaker 11: (01:21:52)
Mike, I like what you said towards the beginning that you’re trying to keep this as best you can. Simple and transparent.
Michael Mulgrew: (01:21:58)
Speaker 11: (01:21:58)
So in that vein, and I’m thinking timeframe here, because I can hear the parents screaming roughly when. Let’s assume things go swimmingly well, that the mayor and the chancellor this afternoon approve your plan and say, “Let’s move forward.” If all those things went into play, when are we talking schools open, mid September, October?
Michael Mulgrew: (01:22:20)
I would say exactly what you just said, because we would have to phase it in due to the testing issues at this moment. I would absolutely run a campaign quickly, not just for our members, the teachers, but also for parents to understand that antibody testing is really the better way to go than the COVID test. I would definitely think that we could probably have every school open middle of September to October 1st.
Speaker 11: (01:22:47)
That’s if things went perfectly, close to perfect?
Michael Mulgrew: (01:22:50)
Close to perfect. There’s no such thing as everything going perfectly, especially here in New York City.
Speaker 11: (01:22:55)
Understood. Well, we’re all humans and none of us are perfect.
Michael Mulgrew: (01:22:57)
I definitely think we could get that done, but that’s going to require that willingness to let’s get this done, or I prefer to spend our time and effort doing that versus having a political fight.
Speaker 11: (01:23:06)
Got it. Thank you.
Speaker 12: (01:23:07)
I want to-
Michael Mulgrew: (01:23:08)
Alison has an online. I’m sorry. Over there.
Speaker 13: (01:23:11)
I have a question about contact tracing. The deal we announced that there will be specific contact tracing teams for schools. Have they given you any more information about that? They made that announcement a few weeks ago.
Michael Mulgrew: (01:23:22)
No. What we have asked for specifically is that if there is a positive case inside of a school, that the contact tracing for the school community be done within 24 hours. There’s more contact tracing to be done outside of the school community. But the first thing that we want to do, because the school is the place that probably has the realistic ability to actually be more damaging for the overall community. What we would like to do is have that contact tracing for the school itself. Who in the school do we need to now quarantine? That contact tracing is done for the school community within 24 hours of a positive test result.
Michael Mulgrew: (01:24:04)
Now we have not received an answer from that nor a guarantee. And “Oh, we’re going to give you contact traces and everything’s going to be good.” This stuff, that doesn’t work for us, especially after March. What we saw happen here in March this, “Yeah, we’re there with you.” That doesn’t work for us. We need evidence. We need to see it ready to go. We want to stress test it, which is easily done once we have an ability to say, ” Well, we’re moving in this direction.”
Michael Mulgrew: (01:24:32)
We’re now going to go to the folks online. So I’d like Leslie Brody, if you could unmute yourself and ask your question.
Leslie Brody: (01:24:43)
Hi there, thanks for taking these questions and pardon this because I’ve been in and out of this, but it sounds like you’re using the word, job action, as opposed to specifically the word, strike. Can you-
Michael Mulgrew: (01:24:58)
It’s the same thing, actually. Under the law it’s considered-
Leslie Brody: (01:25:00)
That’s what I thought.
Michael Mulgrew: (01:25:00)
… any form of a job action, a sick out. It would all be a job action. And it all leads to the same place under the law, the union receiving all sorts of penalties. I go to jail, all of that. That’s all fine. We’ll do it if we have to.
Leslie Brody: (01:25:14)
I see. Thanks. And can you just also verify how… I think you answered this before and I missed it. How long you expect some schools to take to become safe enough in your estimate to enter?
Michael Mulgrew: (01:25:26)
Right now, the realistic expectation is, and this is really sad to say, but we haven’t had any in-depth conversations with the city about their largest school district, which is District 75, which is really very troubling to me. We’ve spoken all about all of the other schools, so they could probably get up and running faster. But the reality is, the District 75 schools should be the priority first and foremost. Those schools will need an attention to the level of detail that is much greater in terms of the procedures at the school itself. As you know, those are some of our students with really, really great challenges that we love and are responsible for. Those teachers and staff at the District 75 schools, they consider themselves to be the guardians of those children and they want to be back in those schools. But that level of building, protocols is going to be much higher. The level of PPE will be much greater just off of the fact that these are difficult situations. And some of our District 75 sites are almost equal to a hospital situation.
Michael Mulgrew: (01:26:43)
So to me, I’d like to shift a lot of focus quickly into the District 75 children, and then since so much has already been done, and then hopefully we can get them all done and ready to go between by the middle of September, beginning of October.
Our next question comes from Sophia Chang. Could you unmute yourself, give your outlet and who you’re posing your question to?
Sophia Chang: (01:27:13)
Hi, it’s Sophia Chang with WNYC in Gothamist. Hi. So I wanted to ask Mr. Mulgrew. So the mayor has said that the UFT has been at the table all along. Why has this golf happened if that’s been true?
Michael Mulgrew: (01:27:30)
We’ve been at the table all along, but we’ve been at the table by ourselves since April. The city didn’t join until July. That’s why we have this problem right now. Let’s be clear. That’s why we’re really having this problem right now. I had preliminary discussions with the Department of Education, but from my understanding, but you can ask the city, they really weren’t given a green light to start preparing until July.
Michael Mulgrew: (01:27:54)
At that point is when we actually started to engage with City Hall itself. So I will always, this union will always do its job in terms of communicating with both the mayor, the Department of Education, that’s what we have to do and that we know that’s part of our responsibility, but at the same time, we were very vocal for a period of time about they were not, City Hall specifically, was not making a good choice by not engaging with us in terms of how to open our schools safely.
Hazel Dukes: (01:28:24)
Michael Mulgrew: (01:28:24)
Hazel Dukes: (01:28:31)
Hope we don’t just get this conversation that, as my good friend, Robert Forest, said, “Getting up to fight the teachers.” It’s been more than just the UFT asked City Hall for a plan. It’s been community groups, it’s been parents. And so the issue here is not who did what, it’s what our leadership, our mayor and the chancellor have not answered real, specific questions that will make us all work together to make sure that our children, our essential workers and our teachers go into environments that are safe and healthy and learning environment for our children. That’s the real issue here. And I think we should stay focused on what we’ll say. If we’re going to move forward for opening our schools, we all want our schools open. I think everyone on this meeting this morning said so. But some things have to be answered and put in place. We can’t go around it. We can’t make it teachers versus City Hall, or community versus the teachers, or whatever.
Hazel Dukes: (01:29:55)
The real issue that we want someone to get them from City Hall, the mayor and the chancellor to say, “Here’s your plan. Let’s all sit at the table and work this out.”
Michael Mulgrew: (01:30:10)
Thank you, Hazel.
Hazel Dukes: (01:30:10)
And if we do that, we will be able to open our schools. We don’t see September the 10th as being a date. We don’t see that we can open all schools at the same time for such a big system as this, but we all want our schools open. We want our children back in a learning environment that is safe and productive. And so that’s the real issue. Start with who did what and when, and whether who was at the table. We all have said, we haven’t been at the table. We haven’t been included.
Michael Mulgrew: (01:30:51)
Thank you, Hazel. Well said.
Our next question comes from Henry Goldman. Could you unmute your phone and say who your question is toward and give your outlet?
Henry Goldman: (01:31:04)
I think I’m unmuted, am I not?
Michael Mulgrew: (01:31:04)
You are unmuted.
Henry Goldman: (01:31:07)
It’s good to see you all. I’m with Bloomberg News. I actually have three questions that I hope you’ll indulge me with.
Michael Mulgrew: (01:31:14)
It depends on how fast they are.
Henry Goldman: (01:31:17)
The first one really is, in light of all of the risks, can we really open school safely in this condition of an epidemic that has asymptomatic spread?
Michael Mulgrew: (01:31:35)
Okay. Let’s take the first one since that was one of my first questions. And I’ve had it answered by our doctors who have said, “Yes, it is possible.” But they can really get into it.
Dr. Jackie Moline: (01:31:51)
I think it’s possible if you have low community spread, which we do in New York right now, and there is adequate testing, contact tracing, followup isolation, and all these procedures in place, as well as having a physically safe plant with appropriate PPE available and used by everyone, along with social distancing.
Michael Mulgrew: (01:32:18)
Yep. So yes, it can be done. New York City is one of the few places that is qualified at this moment to try to do this, but also New York City is at a high risk, extremely high risk of doing it wrong and paying a major price, which we do not want to happen again.
Henry Goldman: (01:32:39)
Okay. Thank you for that. My second question goes to the, pedagogically can in-school instruction really benefit a student any more than remote instruction when you’ve got the hindrance of the PPE, the masks, the confinement of one room, the physical social distancing, the absence of play?
Michael Mulgrew: (01:33:07)
Yes. I hate to cut you off.
Henry Goldman: (01:33:09)
Michael Mulgrew: (01:33:10)
There is nothing, even with all of those obstacles that you have rightfully pointed out, believe me, that relationship between the teacher, the power professional, the guidance counselor, and that student who is in the school building will be enhanced to a better place than if it was just done remotely. What most people don’t understand is that the key to great education is the relationship between the teacher and the school community and the student. More than half of our job is getting a student ready to learn. It’s not just teaching the content of the subject area. And that is why this is an important challenge that we’re trying to meet.
Henry Goldman: (01:33:55)
Thank you for that. My third question goes to, there’s been a lot of talk about the political motivation of the administration in pushing the school reopening forward. I’d like to hear a little bit more from you about what you think that political motivation would be.
Michael Mulgrew: (01:34:14)
I will kick that to the panelists at this point because my focus is… I am not here to discuss or debate about any individual’s political motivation. To me, we are in a fight to make sure that our schools are safe and that if they are safe, we can open them. That’s really what my focus is. If that means we have to be in a major political fight, anyone’s political motivations are irrelevant. You guys can all write about it and speculate about it, but for us and all the teachers and the parents, that means we’re in the streets wearing our mask, fighting with the mayor.
Michael Mulgrew: (01:34:50)
But I will kick that over to the people on the panel, because I’ve heard a lot of that from the panelists. They were all looking up. I don’t know… Anyone care to? Just wave your hand.
Randi Weingarten: (01:35:12)
We couldn’t hear the question.
Michael Mulgrew: (01:35:12)
Oh, the political motivation of the mayor is really what the question is. What do we think that is? I said, that’s not really my focus. My focus is to get the schools open safely. So that’s really what the question was. So the two thumbs up mean you want to answer it? Nope. Hazel?
Hazel Dukes: (01:35:33)
I think, Michael, I think we spent time on the real issue here. And the real issue is we want out of schools open. We have criteria that we have set out that we have proposed. The UFT have a plan. The NAACP have a plan that have included parents and other civic organizations. We have Robin Foyer on here. I think that what we need to concentrate on, even the press, the media is that we have school openings with the criteria that we have laid out. It’s not rocket scientists and we can move on with it.
Hazel Dukes: (01:36:20)
We’ve spent one hour now. We’ve laid the plan out. They’ve heard from medical experts, which is very important because we are not medical. That’s not a teacher’s responsibility. It’s not a principal. They ought to see that education take place in our learning environments. So I believe that we have put out a plan out. We are awaiting from our leaders, the mayor and the chancellor to come back to us so we can all get out of the table and get this done.
Michael Mulgrew: (01:36:54)
Thank you, Hazel. And it is important to point out that-
Randi Weingarten: (01:36:57)
Michael, let me also say, in other places around the country, people have also changed. Meaning that they thought they might’ve been able to reopen [crosstalk 01:37:09] We have also have circumstances, including not having the PPE on day one. Cleveland realized that without the PPE, they couldn’t reopen. Other places realized with the community spread, they couldn’t reopen.
Randi Weingarten: (01:37:25)
So this has been a very changing dynamic situation. And what many of the doctors have said to us is that you have to be humble about the disease and it can’t be about the headline. You can’t be stubborn. You actually have to follow the science. And that what you’re doing here is following the science. And one would hope that the mayor is smart enough and is focused enough that the science means more than the headline.
Michael Mulgrew: (01:38:00)
So thank you, Randy. It really is about, I don’t want to… I said before, we’ll be in a political fight. I really don’t want to be in the political fight. I’d rather be in a place where I’m ensuring and we’re spending all of our time making sure that everybody is as safe as possible. And it really does come down to, we have independent medical expertise.
Michael Mulgrew: (01:38:24)
Hazel, you need to mute.
Michael Mulgrew: (01:38:29)
We have independent medical expertise at a very high level, all telling us what we need to do if we’re going to do this. After that, I think it’s pretty simple that the experts are telling us, “This is your best shot, especially considering the size of your school system.” What has already happened here in New York City. The parents, the elected officials on this are all saying, “Yes, we hear this. this isn’t Michael Mulgrew’s medical opinion. This isn’t any elected officials medical opinion.” So we’re following that guidance. You all know it, we could sit here and say, “No, we shouldn’t open up the schools.” But we’re trying to put together something that is thoughtful and makes sense but is also a great challenge.
Michael Mulgrew: (01:39:15)
I don’t know how many people in the political world gets a partner like a union saying, “We’re doing all this work. We’re trying to help. Let’s get this done.” So I’m hoping that City Hall is listening. I don’t know what that is. City Hall is listening and they’ll take us up on this because if not, then it turns into, I guess, the basic political dramas that we have at the national level and everywhere else in the United States. And that’s just not helpful for all the communities and the people involved.
Our next question comes from-
Michael Mulgrew: (01:39:53)
Alison, we’ve got to get two more. I know everybody has tight schedules.
Last two. Yeah, the last two questions. Jennifer Cain, if you could unmute yourself and ask your question.
Jen Pelts: (01:40:01)
Hi, this is actually, Jen Pelts from AP, can you hear me?
Michael Mulgrew: (01:40:06)
Jen Pelts: (01:40:06)
Great. Mr. Mulgrew, given the totality of what you’ve been saying today about what would be required, the apparent impossibility of doing that by September 10th and what the union’s prepared to do, are you in fact saying the union is prepared to strike if all the schools open in person on September 10th?
Michael Mulgrew: (01:40:27)
If all the schools open on September 10th and not everything that we just laid out today is not in place, the union is prepared to go to court and or go on strike if we need to. Yes.
Jen Pelts: (01:40:40)
Okay. Thank you.
Michael Mulgrew: (01:40:43)
Thank you. I guess I got to keep saying that to make everybody happy in here. Yes, yes, yes. All right.
Michael Mulgrew: (01:40:49)
I’ll get a t-shirt.
Final question from Christina Vega. If you could unmute yourself.
Gloria Corsino: (01:40:57)
Hi everybody. Thank you for taking my call. I appreciate it. So I just want to be clear because we’re talking about potential job actions and then we’re talking about citywide testing as well. And so, is it fair to assume that, to sum everything up, the UFT is asking for this systemic testing to be in place. It’s not likely to happen by September 10th. So therefore, you’re in fact calling for a delay of the start of school? And if schools are required to reopen and have not met this safety checklist, which it seems like UFT is sending its own folks to double check and make sure these things are happening, that there will be individualized actions, or can we expect something to happen all across the city because this testing protocol that you’re calling for seems to require a pretty systemic widespread-
Michael Mulgrew: (01:41:48)
It could be either, or. If say we adopt this plan and we move forward and say on September 21st, the city says, “We’re ready to open every school.” And we say, “No, there’s 180 schools that have not met the criteria.” And you have to understand, under the law it doesn’t matter if we do the whole school system or one school. It’s the same thing under the law that we broke the law. We broke the [inaudible 01:42:17] law. We’re prepared to do either.
Gloria Corsino: (01:42:21)
Michael Mulgrew: (01:42:21)
Okay? All right. So thank you all very much. I want to thank everybody on the panel for taking the time. And again, I want to thank all of the doctors here who spent probably too much time on the phone with me than they wanted, but I really do appreciate it. So thank you everyone.
Speaker 14: (01:42:37)
Dr. Jerrod, can you spell your name?
Dr. Mark Jarrett: (01:42:39)
I think they’re going to send it out.
Speaker 14: (01:42:39)
Dr. Mark Jarrett: (01:42:39)
Speaker 14: (01:42:39)
Or you can just tell me.
Michael Mulgrew: (01:42:39)
Alison, are you going to send out all the names?
Dr. Mark Jarrett: (01:42:46)
Jerrod, J-E-R [crosstalk 00:24:47].
Speaker 14: (01:42:52)
One more time. Your mic is off so I can-
Dr. Mark Jarrett: (01:42:56)
NYC teachers' union speaks out about schools reopening
The United Federation of Teachers (UFT) makes an announcement about the planned reopening of NYC schools. More: https://7ny.tv/3haA4huPosted by ABC7NY on Wednesday, August 19, 2020