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

Here's the latest:

The city Department of Education has quickly refuted rumors that Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza was stepping down while also emphasizing that a shift to fully remote learning for students in grades 6-12 will continue as scheduled.

The rumors began flying sometime in the mid-afternoon on Friday, prompting Miranda Barbot, a spokesperson for the DOE, to post a tweet ending the wild speculation.

Back in mid-March, text messages emerged about President Donald Trump declaring a "mandatory quarantine or lockdown" and the National Guard being activated; U.S. intelligence agencies believe those messages were from a Chinese government disinformation campaign.

In the past few months, the DOE has seen top officials leave their posts to move on just as the largest public school system in the country prepares for reopening. Among them was Ursulina Ramirez, the DOE's chief operating officer, resigned after ten years working for Mayor Bill de Blasio to take a job at a nonprofit agency. Ramirez is credited for helping to start de Blasio's signature Universal Pre-K program while also serving as the architect to the existing hybrid learning model.

Over the summer, Cheryl Watson-Harris left her job as first deputy chancellor, with Tomas Hanna jumping in to replace her.

City Deploys Mobile Testing Vans At Two Schools Falling Within "Ocean Parkway Cluster"

The city has dispatched two mobile testing vans at two schools located within the so-called "Ocean Parkway cluster," the group of Brooklyn neighborhoods that have experienced increased rates of COVID-19 in the last few weeks.

The city Department of Education informed teachers at P.S. 164 Caesar Rodney and in Borough Park, and FDR High School just outside Borough Park, that the testing sites will be made available today, adhering to an agreement with United Federation of Teachers as part of its reopening.

"While we have seen extremely low citywide transmission for several weeks— hovering around 1% —we are focused on immediate response in specific areas where rates are higher than the city average. Right now, that includes the zip code where P.S. 164 is located," read the letter from Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza of the new testing sites. "COVID-19 testing is quick, easy, and safe. Any staff member or student can get free testing with expedited results (within 48 hours) at any of 22 testing sites citywide."

As part of the agreement, Zip codes with a percentage of positive tests at 3% or above using a 7-day rolling average, "the city will deploy additional testing efforts within the community, including, but not limited to, increased testing of individuals in schools."

Borough Park, Midwood, and Bensonhurst are now reporting a coronavirus testing positivity rate of 4.71%. The neighborhoods of Williamsburg, Far Rockaway, and Kew Gardens have seen recent upticks as well. The six neighborhoods now account for 20 percent of new cases in the city.

While there have been mobile testing sites located at schools before, these sites will be devoted simply for staffers and students only.

NYC Health + Hospitals will administer COVID-19 tests under its Test and Trace protocol, which is also carrying out its randomized testing of students and staffers for each school beginning in October.

While FDR High School's testing runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., P.S. 164 Caesar Rodney's availability goes from 1 to 4 p.m.

An aerial shot showing the exterior of IS 51 in Staten Island on a partly cloudy day.

Fifty staffers at IS 51 have been ordered to quarantine after a colleague of theirs tested positive for the coronavirus.

Fifty staffers at IS 51 have been ordered to quarantine after a colleague of theirs tested positive for the coronavirus.
IS 51

COVID Case At Staten Island Middle School Forces 50 Staffers To Quarantine

9:30 a.m.: Fifty staffers, including teachers, at a public school in Staten Island have been ordered by the city Department of Education to quarantine for 14 days after another employee tested positive for the coronavirus.

Administrators at the The Edwin Markham Intermediate School 51 alerted parents of its quarantine order in a letter sent on Thursday.

“At this time this is the only confirmed case at the school,” read the letter written by the school. “All staff who were in the same room(s) for meetings with the individual who tested positive are considered ‘close contacts,’ and have been notified of the need to quarantine for 14 days since the last contact with the person who tested positive.”

In a follow-up message posted on the school website on Friday morning, a staffer who did not identify themselves disputed early reports that the school was not properly social distancing.

“The reason why so many have to quarantine including myself is because a meeting took place in the student cafeteria in which 43 people attended. Staff were assigned seating to make sure each person was more than 6 feet apart from one another and all staff wore masks the entire time," read the message. "It wasn't until I spoke with the DOE and the Contact Tracers from the Department of Health did I learn that any meeting lasting more than 30 minutes would require everyone in the room with the identified person with a positive test to quarantine even if all safety protocols were followed, which they were. I want you to also know the staff has worked tirelessly both in school and at home to make the best of a very difficult situation and I am proud of them and stand by everything we have done and are doing for our school community.”

Affected teachers will now shift to remote learning during the quarantine period. The DOE is searching for in-person teachers to fill the slots, according to WABC-TV.

The news comes ahead of the first day of in-person learning—October 1st—for the 6th-8th grade school with a student population of 1,335, according to the DOE’s 2018-19 School Quality Snapshot.

The DOE’s School Ventilation Report shows that of the 87 exhaust fans at the school, only 25 were found to be operating. Also, five of six fans are operational, and, of the 115 classrooms with windows, 92 of them have windows that are inoperable.