NYC educators call for remote option as students, staff head back to school
As students and staff return to school in New York City after winter break Monday, many fear that the Omicron variant will spread quickly - which is why one teacher is taking legal action against the Department of Education.
Lydia Howrilka, a city teacher and part of UFT Solidarity, filed a temporary restraining order Thursday calling on the city to halt the opening of schools until there is adequate COVID-19 testing in place.
She says she believes students and staff should be required to submit a PCR test this upcoming week and that schools should stay remote until all the results are processed.
Howrilka says the DOE doesn't have sufficient testing, HVAC systems or the infrastructure in place to keep everyone safe. She says after polling members of the United Teachers Federation, she found that 88% of UFT staffers say not all adults in their respective schools can get COVID-19 tests and 75% say their schools haven't been informed of when testing will take place.
The DOE disagrees, saying in a statement, "New York has gone above and beyond to make our schools safe with our multi-layered approach - including testing, vaccines and masks - and we look forward to welcoming back every student and staff member in person on Monday. This case is meritless and we will never waver from putting the health and needs of our school communities first including the many students for whom in-person school is a daily lifeline."
But for some educators, like the president of the District 8 Community Education Council, the return to school is a matter of life or death. Farah Despeignes says many families live in multigenerational homes and deserve the right to protect their family members by having a remote option all year.
Howrilka says she has yet to hear back from the DOE regarding her call for the first few weeks of school to be remote.