What Happens When a Teacher or Student Tests COVID Positive? and Other Unanswered Questions from School Leaders and Teachers: Safety, Organization and Instruction [Updated]

You don’t encourage teachers to care for, love and respect their students by disrespecting educators and placing their lives at risk.” (Eric Nadelstern, former Deputy Chancellor, NYC Department of Education)

Half of the members of the Miami Marlins baseball team have tested positive for COVID   putting into question the viability of the entire baseball season.

Could the same happen in a school?

A New York Times opinion essay asks the right question, “What Will Schools Do When a Teacher Gets Covid-19, and encourages school districts to answer the question.

At the virtual AFT Convention Randi Weingarten and Dr Fauci answered questions from teachers:  Watch here,  Fauci repeated what he has been saying; school opening decisions are local and depend on scientific data and safety protocols.

A highly regarded pediatrician who have been in the forefront of treating COVID infected children, in a NY Daily News writes,

, In accordance with the American Academy of Pediatrics, I believe in-person instruction should occur as much as possible, and certainly in areas, including New York City, where the percent COVID-positive tests are less than 5%. Parents and educators alike need to understand that we are at least a couple of years away from a widely-used COVID vaccine. Two more years of young children attempting to learn through screens would be a pandemic of its own.

Teachers lives versus children’s futures: a Hobson’s Dilemna.

School leaders are struggling with choosing hybrid instructional models, do we “satisfy” parents or do we select a model that we feel is the instructionally sound?

School re-opening plans are due by July 31, the governor has announced he will determine a school opening “go/no-go” the first week in August and the mayor says he will determine school opening latter in the summer.

The NYC Public Advocate, Jummane Williams and the NY City Council Education chair, Mark Treyger is calling for a delayed opening, a phased opening.

School staffs are fearful, even though the COVID contagion rates in New York are very low; fear can be rational or irrational. You have a better chance of being struck by lightening than being in a plane crash, the fear of flying is irrational, you are still fearful.

Fear stimulates a chemical response in your body, and unresolved fears,; fears over long periods of time are harmful,.

Your body is meant to return to its normal state after this response, so when exposed to cortisol for long periods of time, your body can have long-term effects, including diarrhea, nausea, colds, high blood pressure, migraines, asthma, and heart attacks

School leaders and school staffs have long lists of questions, unresolved questions and there appears to be a yawning gap between school personnel and the decision-makers, the core questions from the folks who will actually be in schools and the school districts and State Education Department leadership.

I asked a number of school leaders: below is a sampling of the numerous unanswered questions,

Safety [Department of Education releases guidelines:  priority testing for all school staff prior to the opening of school and guidelines for responses for positive tests for staff members or students and contact tracing – read here ]

Will on-site COVID testing be available for all school staff members? [Yes]

If a staff member or student tests positive what are the protocols?  Will the school go all-remote for 14 days and not reopen until the staff member/student tests negative? [click above]

My school is in one of the highest COVID zip codes in the city: can the school become a COVID testing site?

If a parent tests positive will the parent(s) child/children be quarantined for 14 days? [see above]

Will every school building have a school nurse?

Will schools be provided with PPP equipment?


If too many teachers in my school are approved for “medical accommodations” how will I be able to provide in-person instruction?

Under the best circumstances it will take over an hour to temperature check all students and adults entering the building: will there be specific guidelines re who can check temperatures?

If a parent refuses to have their child checked for temperature or refuses to allow their child to wear a mask; what the protocols?

If a student or staff member has a temperature of 100 degrees or over do we send them home?

Some parents indicate they intend to home school their child, do we mark the child absent?

If parents consistently bring their children on the “wrong” day what are the consequences?


Is there a waiver procedure if our school wants to use another hybrid instructional model?

Are there staffing templates available for each hybrid instructional model?

Can different teachers provide in-person and remote learning for the same class?

Is there research on the effectiveness of models? Is in-school Monday/Wednesday/Friday and remote Tuesday/Thursday and flipped the following week, or, Monday/Tuesday in school and Wednesday/Thursday remote and flip Fridays, or one week in-school and one week remote more effective?

Should we follow the grade curriculum or move, if possible, to a project-based learning mode?

School leaders are adrift.

When the governor ordered a state-wide shutdown schools had to repair the proverbial aircraft in flight; we don’t know the “learning loss,” probably significant, and, the poorest kids lost out the most.

With a COVID positive testing rate at about 1% (way below the 5% rate set the governor weeks ago) the governor will undoubtedly give districts a thumbs up.

The long list, the very long list of unanswered questions from the very folks in the trenches is beyond disturbing.

The recent report from the NYC Independent Budget Office paints a bleak picture, without the passage of the pending HEROES bill, a bill that contains dollars for state and local governments as well as schools New York State may be facing, according to the governor a mid-year 20% cut in the budgets, according to the IBO a $2.3 billion cut in education.

Families are confused, teachers are confused and frightened and school leaders confused, frightened and angry; they desperately want to do the right thing, if only someone would tell what that is ….

Listen to FDR’s First Inaugural Address, “We have nothing to fear …”


2 responses to “What Happens When a Teacher or Student Tests COVID Positive? and Other Unanswered Questions from School Leaders and Teachers: Safety, Organization and Instruction [Updated]

  1. Ironic isn’t it? Trump unleashes Betsy DeVos on teachers, then wants teachers to sacrifice themselves to save his presidency. A prince this Mr. Trump.


  2. Pingback: Is Re-Opening Schools a Political, Science-Driven or an Emotional Decision? | Ed In The Apple

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