YONKERS, NY – August 8, 2020 — Local unions representing educators and school staff in Yonkers Public Schools today demanded the district coordinate with staff on responsible safety protocols before schools reopen. Today’s comments came in response to the announcement by New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo that schools could reopen under current viral infection rates, but that districts need to work to ensure students, parents and teachers are comfortable with health and safety protocols related to the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, district officials have engaged in virtually no coordination with labor leaders on its reopening plan. Meanwhile, a survey conducted by the district showed that at least 45 percent of parents surveyed say they are not comfortable with sending their children into school buildings and would prefer remote learning.
“While Governor Cuomo was right to require districts to coordinate with educational professionals and parents, Yonkers Public Schools officials refused to share their plan with any of the three unions representing district employees until after it was submitted to the State and posted on their website. That is completely unacceptable,” said Yonkers Federation of Teachers (YFT) President Samantha Rosado-Ciriello. “Our members and the students we serve deserve better than this. We have less than four weeks to work things out and then we will have to consider what our options are.”
“As we prepare to open schools, all 1,500 CSEA members play a crucial role in the operations of the school district, from bus monitors transporting our students, nurses managing health and detecting COVID-19 symptoms, maintenance staff responsible for cleaning and disinfecting, cafeteria workers preparing and serving food to our 27,000 students and their families, Technology Department employees supporting online platforms and troubleshooting, and school aides assisting teachers and students with learning both in person and remotely. All discussions must prioritize health and safety of the workforce and students. To do this, we must be properly staffed to keep the buildings safe. We must be a part of the planning and decision making in determining how schools will open and operate,” said CSEA 9169 President Dulani Turner.
Similar to Governor Cuomo’s phased approach to re-opening New York State, YFT has proposed a four-phased approach to reopening Yonkers’ school buildings. Once facilities are safe and appropriate protocols are in place, school buildings should reopen based on the following phases:
•Phase I: Bring back staff. Prepare classrooms to receive students and remote learning begins. This will allow everyone to learn health and safety protocols, determine what needs to be done to perfect remote learning strategies and programs, and address the social and emotional needs of our students and educators.
•Phase II: Teachers students and families meet each other individually remotely to assess academic, emotional and technological needs. This would also allow opportunities to train students and parents on health and safety protocols and remote learning programs.
•Phase III: (One month later) Welcome students back into the buildings in a hybrid model.
•Phase IV: Reassess/reevaluate to make adjustments, as needed.
“The Yonkers Council of Administrators commends Governor Andrew Cuomo. Through his leadership of New York State, we have successfully implemented a four phased reopening. New York has gone from being the epicenter of the pandemic to now being one of the lowest infected states of the nation. This model has set an excellent example of how to reopen both safely and sustainably,” says Yonkers Council of Administrators (YCA) President Jane Wermuth.
“In learning from this the YCA strongly encourages the implementation of the 4-phased reopening plan as outlined by our brothers and sisters in the YFT. We are dedicated to providing a safe and healthy learning environment for every student in Yonkers. As the educational leaders of the building, we must be at the table for this to happen,” says Wermuth.
“Let’s make sure classrooms are appropriately ventilated, with windows that open and updated HVAC units,” said Rosado-Ciriello. “Lets make sure students have workspaces that are appropriately distanced and that all health and safety protocols in place, including closing our school buildings for 14 days if someone tests positive. This four-phased approach to reopening schools offers a responsible, safe approach to re-opening school buildings that addresses the needs of all populations, teachers and students alike.”