As state and city officials roll out announcement after announcement about the upcoming re-opening of New York City public schools, some teachers say they’re still in the dark about crucial logistics they believe they’re going to be responsible for implementing in classrooms.

Damian Griffin teaches at a middle school in the Bronx. He says the plans for blended learning, which limits in-person classes, don’t consider whether kids are social distancing when outside of the school building.

“We know where we are and where the kids will be, generally. But when the students are out of the building, where are they, who are they with, generally?” Griffin said.

Lindsay Melachrinos, a science teacher at a middle school on the Upper West Side, pointed out that the plans also call for students to eat lunch in their classrooms to minimize interactions. “I'm just concerned about being in a small space for a significant period of time with people who don't have masks on,” she said. “If I'm in the room, and everyone has their masks off and they're eating, and then we are sitting in that same room for an additional three hours -- you know, if I have to do it I have to do it, but it makes me nervous for them and for me.”

Melissa Williams, an occupational therapist who works at District 6 public schools in upper Manhattan, said despite the city pledging to supply each school with personal protective equipment and to perform constant deep cleanings, she’s afraid the burden of buying cleaning supplies will fall on teachers. “They’re going to run out quickly, so what happens if they run out? During normal times, we run out of soap, we run out of toilet paper, we buy our own cleaning supplies. So I don’t see what’s going to change,” she said.

Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza has said the city Department of Education will supply schools with additional  sanitation supplies like disinfecting wipes, disinfectant sprays and towels.

On Friday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced he was approving all districts in the state to re-open for in-person schooling based on current infection rates of COVID-19. The state education and health departments still have to review and approve each district plan.

New York City education officials released more details of the city’s plans Friday, including requiring DOE staffers to get tested for COVID-19 least seven days before the first day of school, and to get tested at least once a month afterwards.

The lack of a structured test and trace program solely for the school system is frustrating United Federation of Teachers union president Michael Mulgrew.

In an interview with WCBS on Thursday before Cuomo’s announcement, Mulgrew said there has been a critical lack of information about testing. “We don't have a dedicated testing and contact tracing apparatus for the city school system, which is kind of like flabbergasting to me because from February on, all we've heard about is ‘in order to get keep this virus, get it under control and keep it under control you have to have a very aggressive testing and tracing program,’” he said.

Mulgrew added, “I've been very clear with all of the teachers of this city that if it is not safe, if I do not believe it is safe, I will tell them that I do not believe they should be going into schools.”

Last week, a group of teachers and parents marched on Foley Square demanding that schools remain closed until there have been no new cases in the city for 14 days and rapid testing for coronavirus is available, among other provisions.

The growing criticism from educators needs to be addressed, Cuomo said Friday, as he announced each school district needs to plan a special town hall meeting with teachers. “Teachers have to feel safe. They can't teach if they don't feel safe, you know. You're not going to order a teacher into the classroom and say, ‘do your job even though you don't want to be here, and you feel like your health may be threatened.’ They're not going to be able to teach in that environment," he said. "So the teachers have to agree to go back."

“Viral infection rates tell only one part of the story,” said New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallott in a statement Friday. “Among the concerns that remain is the lack of guidance on specific procedures for closure, testing and contact tracing in the event of a COVID-19 case in a school….Being safe means parents and teachers must be confident in the reopening plan, and it is welcome news that districts must meet with parents and teachers this month. We’re thankful the governor agrees that forcing people back into the classroom when they feel their health is threatened is not what should happen.”

The governor and DOE’s updates haven’t swayed Williams, who decided to sign up her 10-year-old son for 100% remote learning after hearing her friends and co-workers were doing the same. “And when teachers are making that choice, I think that’s something that parents who aren’t teachers need to listen to because we’re the experts of our own experience,” she said.

With Danny Lewis / WNYC