This is our daily update following the reopening of NYC schools for Saturday, September 26th, 2020.

Here's the latest:

Air filtration units have been purportedly installed at classrooms across the only public school falling under the CUNY system. This came after the union representing the teachers won a temporary restraining order that could keep the schools closed until those filters are installed in every classroom.

But even if HEPA filter units are installed in every classroom within the Hunter College Campus Schools network—the Silberman School of Social Work at 119th Street and 3rd Avenue and a windowless fortress-like building at East 94th Street and Park Avenue often referred as the "Brick Prison"—it is one of many boxes that teachers with the Professional Staff Congress union look to check off before re-entering school. The union, which represents 130 teachers, is meeting this weekend to demand that CUNY also allow for an independent inspection of the school or threaten a strike.

The order barring administrators from forcing teachers to enter the two buildings was approved by Manhattan state Supreme Court Judge Eileen Rakower on Friday. The building on East 94th Street is comprised of windowless classrooms, making HEPA filters critical to ensuring airflow is properly circulating to minimize exposure to COVID-19.

"There's the issue of the entire air ventilation cooling system, there are issues of the water system. There are other issues about safety throughout the building that need to be verified, before the building is safe, before we can be sure that the building is safe to open," said said Barbara Bowen, PSC president. "This is why we need an inspection and inspection we'll check many different things."

In a statement to Gothamist, CUNY spokesperson Frank Sobrino insisted that the "necessary air filtration units are in place" for the school.

"In-person classes will begin as scheduled," Sobrino added.

However, that still doesn't address PSC's latter request for an independent inspection of the buildings, a similar move made by the United Federation of Teachers, which was allowed to bring in independent inspectors to a number of public school buildings ahead of reopening. Bowen has identified a number of independent inspectors, though CUNY hasn't taken up their offer.

"The teachers are taking a strike authorization vote right now. And we'll know the results of that vote late tomorrow. I hope that we do not have to act on that vote. And the vote is an authorization. It's not a vote to strike, the union leadership would have to call that," said Bowen. "But we have to be prepared. But meanwhile, we're negotiating basically around the clock to see if a solution can be found, to see if there's a way that we can get the building inspected. And, you know, and not only just get it inspected, but get satisfactory results or get remediation of anything that's hazardous that needs to be fixed."

Bowen wants the inspection to happen before Tuesday.

Teachers wearing masks sit socially distant outside PS 139 in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn in protest over the city's school reopening plan.

Teachers sit outside PS 139 in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn in protest over the city's school reopening plan.

Teachers sit outside PS 139 in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn in protest over the city's school reopening plan.
Jessica Gould

UFT And DOE Revise Agreement To Allow More Teachers To Work From Home

1 p.m.: Following worries that teachers would put their frail relatives at risk for contracting COVID-19 while also questioning why they have to teach remote students from school, the city and the teachers union have revised their agreement to allow those educators to work remotely if teaching remote learning students.

Under the updated agreement between the city Department of Education and United Federation of Teachers announced on Friday, educators with live-in relatives suffering from pre-existing medical conditions that make them vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 will be given priority to work from home. The union was also cleared to have its teachers work from home if they are teaching students who are learning remotely.

“The DOE will be instructing principals that all UFT-represented employees in all job titles who have no on-site duties or responsibilities have the option to work remotely,” the union told its members in a letter sent on Friday.

The decision comes just as 540,000 elementary and middle school students head back to school for in-person learning on September 29th, with roughly 460,000 expected to log in for remote learning exclusively. Teachers in good health but living with relatives in poor shape and susceptible to getting sick are told to come into a school building, raising the risk of bringing the coronavirus home.

It also came two weeks after five teachers had sued the DOE claiming that its Reasonable Accommodation Requests, which allow educators to work from home if they prove to have a medical condition that could worsen if attending school. So far, 23% of teachers have been allowed to work from home since educators were told to report to school buildings on September 8th.

If approved, teachers will be allowed to work from home beginning on October 5th.