Tag Archives: COVID-19

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 …”


How will the decision to re-open schools be made? What will re-opened schools look like?

“You can’t bring back a life; you can start a new business”

 “There’s no on/off switch”

Sunday morning Mayor de Blasio outlined his “Restart” proposals (See here  on Twitter) and a few hours later Governor Cuomo outlined his “Reimagine” Plan (Read here).

Perhaos, just perhaps, de Blasio and Cuomo could shake hands, virtujally of course, and work together.

Both plans are light on education,

De Blasio appointed a task force that will report out a draft proposal by June 1st, Cuomo spoke in general terms about a phased re-opening based on two weeks of positive data, aka, the curves continuing to decline.

Cuomo mused about the whether schools should open in the summer. Summer schools to make up for remote learning losses, and, acknowledged that we were unprepared for the instantaneous switch from classroom instruction to remote learning.

Some sections of the state have low levels of COVID infections and low rates of transmission: Cuomo proposed a phased re-opening starting with low incidence sections of the state: will schools be included?

School openings must be guided by medical advice; however, the decision will be made by the governor.

The UFT started a Change.org petition with specific requirements before reopening.

The following things need to be in place when buildings reopen:

  • Widespread access to coronavirus testing to regularly check that people are negative or have immunity
  • A process for checking the temperature of everyone who enters a school building
  • Rigorous cleaning protocols and personal protective gear in every school building
  • An exhaustive tracing procedure that would track down and isolate those who have had close contact with a student or staff member who  tests positive for the virus

Will the unions, school boards and parents be involved in the re-opening decisions?

The contradiction is that until the re-start, until businesses reopen the loss of revenues to the state will result in lower and lower revenue to cities: fewer policeman, fireman and teachers.

There is a cry: tax the billionaires.

Thomas Piketty, a French economist, argues, “Billionaires should be taxed out of existence;” others argue that its illusory, billionaires create corporations that create millions of jobs for the middle class.

A lengthier debate …

The state has announced another cut, a 20% cut in the budget, and, the date for school budget votes has not been set by the governor. If the state does not re-open there could be increasing reductions after July 1.

Could the continuing low levels of revenue result in layoffs of state and local employees?

Could it lead to teacher layoffs? After the 2008 Great Recession there were teacher layoffs across the state, not in New York City.

How do you weigh the positive economic impact of  a restart versus an upsurge in COVID infections?

The governor has made it clear that there are specific data points that must be met before businesses can be reopened and the reopening will be phased in guided by “precautions.”

Tourism is a major driver of the New York City economy; under what conditions will tourists return to the city?  Restaurants are also drivers of employment; once again, under what conditions can restaurants reopen?  Without tourism and restaurants it is hard to imagine the return of pre-COVD revenues.

Federal infusions of dollars are a stopgap until the economy can be restarted and it could easily be years before pre-COVID levels of revenues are reached: fewer dollars for schools and economic woes for the city.

Let’s raise a few school re-opening questions?

How will school buses practice social distancing?

In New York City and other Big Five cities, how will public transit practice social distancing?  Will every rider be required to wear a mask?  Will teachers feel safe taking public transit to get to school?

Is it possible to take the temperature of every bus/train rider?

What will classrooms look like?

Can you social distance in classrooms?

Can kids go to school on alternate days to reduce class size by half? And only move to full days if the data moves below medically established data points.

Can secondary schools move to end-to-end sessions?  As a student my high school had end-to-end sessions, as a teacher I programmed a 5,000 plus student high school on three overlapping sessions. My first year of teaching I was on late session – 11:40 to 6:00, some teachers took college classes in the morning, other partied late into the night (without social distancing, in fact, the opposite)

Would all teachers be tested before they could be returned to the classroom?

Can schools reopen and hold regular classes with the provisions in the change.org petition?

Dr Fauci warns about a return in the fall of both the regular flu and COVID.

I agree with Cuomo and de Blasio, every step must be guided by medical evidence, and hovering is the impact economic impact on the citizenry.

Over the next month or two the questions I raised will require answers.

Check out an old labor song


Stay Safe.

The Coronavirus Crisis: Are We On the Same Page?  What Aren’t We Doing? When Will the “All Clear” Sound?

There are moments that are embedded our memories.

The morning of Tuesday, September 11th I turned on the tube, a plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers. I raced to my window; smoke was trailing across the sky. Were we at war? What was next?

We can divide our world, pre and post 9/11.

Two decades later: another catastrophic event.

The coronavirus exploded in China, raced along to South Korea, to Italy, to Iran and moved to France and Spain and the number of cases rapidly increasing.

Social media, electeds and candidates are all offering “advice.”

The best sources of information:

John Hopkins Coronavirus Updates:  http://www.centerforhealthsecurity.org/newsroom/newsletters/e-newsletter-sign-up.html

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public

Nations were ill-prepared and most reacted too slowly; we waited two months and even now our reactions appear haphazard.

Italy and Spain are in total lockdowns, only food outlets and pharmacies open.

Unfortunately we seem to having a state-by-state approach, watch the President and his closest advisors huddled on a stage, not practicing social distancing.

The epidemiologists, the virologists are clear, the more you test the more cases you will find, without identifying you can’t treat. New York State is setting up mobile testing sites.

The number of cases will continue to spike until ….?  The Imperial College (UK) Report predicts 2.2 million deaths in the US.

Fourteen days, forty-five days … July or August?  Dr, Fauci, the head of the CDC says we have no way to know, this is a unique situation. “Mitigate and contain” complements testing, the more data the more models can be built.

In New York City schools, restaurants, bars, all meetings, concerts, theaters, gyms closed: “social distancing” is the rule.

I live next to an NYU site and a School of Visual Arts dormitory, the plaza in front of my abode usually filled with students, today, empty.

I’m an avid bike rider, a lonely ride this morning along the East River around the Battery and up the West Side.

Schools are closed; teachers are being trained to use the online learning links. Needless to say there is an enormous equity issue. Most of the schools in the Affinity District, schools supported by not-for-profits (for example, (see The Internationals Network site) already have online capability. In the highest poverty districts many households do not have online capacity.

The Department of Education Learn at Home site provides grade-by-grade, subject-by-subject activities, the question: how many families will utilize?  We know from the online Charter Schools debacle that online learning has minimal effectiveness, a stopgap measure.

I’m bombarded with questions:

“I’m a student teacher, schools are closed, how can I meet my required number of student teaching hours?”

“The required edTPA test requires video-taping a lesson and writing a detailed self-analysis of the lesson: how can I meet the requirement if schools are closed?”

“Will the grades 3-8 standardized tests be cancelled or postponed?”

“Will Regents exams be given?”

“Will the school year be extended into the summer?”

and on and on ….

Everyone is asking the experts, when this crisis will end, and, as the experts respond: this is a unique situation, we simply don’t know.

The 1918-19 Influenza Pandemic, in era before vaccines and before antibiotics killed 50 million people.

One one hand Governor Cuomo is painting a bleak picture, overflowing hospitals, lack of supplies, lack of faculties, and bluntly saying only federal government has the resources to respond.

President Trump and his team paint a far brighter picture (with the exception of Dr. Fauci)

The economic impact is another story completely, President Trump predicts a rapid bounce back; others see a depression paralleling the Great Depression.

I’m not in an upbeat frame of mind: listen to Leonard Cohen, “You Want It Darker”