The second hardest action is getting members to go on strike, the hardest … getting them to end the strike.
As COVID began to ravage the city the teachers’ union demanded schools close, the mayor refused, vacillated, hesitated, and finally agreed.
75 school-based Department of Education employees died from COVID. The Nation is sharply critical of the Mayor’s delay in closing schools
… the possibility that the number of deaths could have been reduced by as much as 50 to 80 percent had governments instituted social distancing a week or two earlier, the question of how many school workers could have been saved has haunted New York City educators. For many, the high number of deaths has served as yet more evidence of the great cost educators have paid for what they consider the city’s drawn-out decision to close the public schools.
As summer progressed the COVID positive rate continued to drop, it is now below 1%, dramatically less than other large cities. The New York State Department of Education released a 149-page School Re-Opening Plan and the New York State Department of Health issued interim guidance. .
New York City submitted their 109-page re-opening plan .
The Mayor and the Chancellor made it clear; New York City was opening on September 10th in a hybrid model, a combination of in-person and remote instruction.
A bit of arrogance, de Blasio would be the only large city mayor who was not delaying an in-person opening.
The teacher union (UFT) and school leaders were less than enthusiastic; hundreds of school leaders signed letters asking for a delay in school re-opening.
As the days passed it was increasingly clear; the school system was not meeting their promises.
UFT President Mulgrew aggressively began to more than hint, teachers would not be reporting to school until the union was satisfied that schools were safe.
On Monday night (8/31) the Union Executive Board met and authorized the Union officers to take steps towards a strike vote.
The Union had scheduled a virtual Delegates Meeting for Tuesday (9/1).
At the meeting Mulgrew reported that at 8:30, as he was driving to his office, a settlement with the city was reached.
Chalkbeat describes the highlights of the agreement,
All students will begin a “transition and orientation” period on Sept. 16. Regular coursework will not resume for students in-person or remotely until school buildings reopen on Sept. 21. Teachers … report to buildings on Sept. 8, as previously scheduled.
The agreement … includes random, monthly testing of staff and students for COVID-19. Officials said 10 to 20% of a school’s population could be randomly tested based on its size. Sampling will happen “in or near” school and will be self-administered — not the more invasive swabs which reach far back into the nasal cavity Parents of students learning in-person will be asked for consent to random testing.
Still, the deal does not include mandatory testing of students and staff before school buildings reopen, something union officials had been demanding. Instead, the city is prioritizing students and teachers at 34 testing sites across the city with results in under 48 hours.
Once random testing begins on Oct. 1, any student who declines to be tested will be switched to fully-virtual instruction, union officials said, and staff members who refuse will be placed on unpaid leave.
The Union tweeted the highlights of the agreement,
We have reached an agreement with City Hall and the Department of Education that meets our demand that the safety of our school communities must come first. Our schools will now reopen in a much better place because of all our work together.
Schools will reopen for staff on Tuesday, Sept. 8, and for students on Monday, Sept. 21.
The decision on whether to reopen a school building to students will be based on the UFT’s 50-item safety plan, including the availability of masks and face shields, a room-by-room review of ventilation effectiveness, an isolation room and a COVID-19 building response team.
Union reps are visiting every school to check that they have these supplies and procedures in place. School buildings or rooms that do not meet safety standards will remain closed.
The city has also agreed to a robust program of repeated random sampling and COVID-19 testing of adults and students present in schools. This new testing program is one of the major pieces that medical experts told us we needed.
You can listen to the Delegate Assembly here
The speakers at the meeting were overwhelmingly in favor of the agreement, and, 82% voted to approve the agreement.
Mulgrew: if the city failed to live up to the agreement the Union would move directly to Court to force compliance.
Mulgrew and the union comes out as winners, the agreement protects, to the extent possible, school personnel and students, The delayed opening allows schools to figure how to blend the in-person and remote instruction, extremely complex and will vary from school to school.
While the agreement is a major step budget cuts at the state and city level are still hovering.
The insiders are hinting that the White House and the Senate will agree to an iteration of the HEROES bill as we move closer to November 3rd. Who knows?