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City Council hearing centers on keeping students safe amid COVID-19 pandemic

The City Council held a hearing Wednesday with city agencies to check on COVID-19 implementations and possible improvements.

News 12 Staff

Oct 6, 2021, 9:26 PM

Updated 1,016 days ago

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The City Council held a hearing Wednesday with city agencies to check on COVID-19 implementations and possible improvements.
Councilmember and Education Chair Mark Treyger expressed concerns regarding current conditions facing staff and students. 
"This is also about instilling trust and confidence in parents and school communities," said Treyger. 
In the oversight hearing, Treyger and other City Council members discussed the current implementation of COVID policies from the lack of remote learning options for students, to staffing issues following the vaccine mandate, to concerns about the 3-foot social distancing rule. 
"That to me does not look like adequate physical distance and what that allows the Department of Education to do is to fit more desks into spaces because we have overcrowded schools and classrooms. That is in my opinion not a part of a gold standard, multi-layered approach to keep students, staff, and students safe," said Treyger.  
However, Dr. Ted Long of NYC Health + Hospitals says they're following CDC guidelines.
"The close contact definition excludes students who are between 3 to 6 feet of an infected student. That's all contingent on there being appropriate and consistent mask-wearing throughout the day," said Long. 
With the vaccine mandate now in effect, the DOE is experiencing staffing issues. Around 3,000 teachers are not vaccinated, so substitutes are in high demand.
Councilmember Eric Dinowitz questions whether substitutes are now teaching in areas where they're not trained.
"There are a lot of classrooms with teachers in them who are not licensed to teach that material and now our children are in classes without teachers certified -- not just for that subject, but maybe even for that age range," said Dinowitz. 
First Deputy Chancellor of the DOE Donald Conyers defended substitute teachers, saying, "Many of them are long-term subs from the past, many of the central workers are working within their license and their discipline area."
During the hearing, officials hinted at the possibility of requiring students to be vaccinated and how that mandate would be implemented.
"As we make decisions and policies around requiring vaccines, we make sure that information gets out to parents as well," said Easterling.


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