SUMMARY: YFT cites ventilation and window work, lack of key protocols and procedures, inadequate access to PPE as top concerns that still must be addressed
YONKERS, NY — The Yonkers Federation of Teachers today released an open letter to the Yonkers Public Schools community to raise awareness of ongoing issues related to the reopening of school buildings this coming Monday for hybrid instruction.
In a letter to families from the YFT Executive Board, the union says district leaders still must address a litany of outstanding concerns, ranging from incomplete ventilation and window work to a lack of clear arrival, dismissal, bathroom, lunch and cleaning protocols that are necessary to protect the safety of every student. Other issues include inadequate access to personal protective equipment and insufficient protocols for identifying COVID cases and closing buildings to go to remote instruction where cases are identified. YFT continues to advocate for a 14-day closure of any building in which there is a confirmed positive COVID case.
“Let’s be honest that these are concerns that district leaders should have had in place months ago in order to safely reopen,” the letter states. “To be sure, there are and will continue to be issues that pop up throughout this year that we will have to address together. No matter the work ahead, we want to be unequivocally clear: Not even a global pandemic could break our commitment to children. We will continue to be there for Yonkers students.”
A full copy of the open letter is below:
Dear Yonkers Public Schools families,
First and foremost, we wish you all good health as our city, state, and nation continue to be gripped by the coronavirus pandemic. We all must remain vigilant, follow best practices, and err on the side of caution — and that is why we are writing today.
Education in the time of COVID is nothing like any of us ever imagined we would experience in our careers. We know that a strain has been placed on many families, including our own. We want more than anything to return to normal. We miss our students, and we miss the opportunities to check in academically, socially, and emotionally with them in person.
But even with months to plan, we believe district leaders still need to address the following:
Uncompleted ventilation and window work at the school buildings that is essential for safer circulation in confined settings. HEPA filters need to be installed in classrooms that have outdated ventilation systems and too many windows remain broken or, in the worst cases, bolted shut at this time.
Lack of clear arrival, dismissal, bathroom, lunch, and cleaning protocols that include measures intended to protect the safety of every student.
Inadequate access to personal protective equipment that must be provided by the district for students and staff. That includes correctly sized masks and N95, disposable and replacement gowns, and a dedicated isolation room.
Insufficient protocols for identifying positive COVID cases and closing buildings to go to remote instruction where cases are identified. Yonkers educators continue to advocate for a 14-day closure of any building in which there is a confirmed positive COVID case, which would help reduce community spread.
Let’s be honest that these are concerns that district leaders should have had in place months ago in order to safely reopen. To be sure, there are and will continue to be issues that pop up throughout this year that we will have to address together.
No matter the work ahead, we want to be unequivocally clear: Not even a global pandemic could break our commitment to children. We will continue to be there for Yonkers students.
Yonkers Federation of Teachers Executive Board
Samantha Rosado-Ciriello, President
Dr. Kara Popiel, Executive Vice President
James Hayes, High School Vice President
Dr. Lisa Foto, Special Areas Vice President
Dan Florin, Elementary Vice President
Christine Morrone, Elementary Vice President
Michael Garbowski, Elementary Vice President
Kirk Bauer, Treasurer
Elizabeth O’Donnell, Secretary
Paul Diamond, At-Large Officer and Staff Director
Michael Ciriello, At-Large Officer
Erin Gorman, At-Large Officer
Roz Kendrick-Jones, At-Large Officer
Tom Muniz, At-Large Officer
Jen Lorio, At-Large Officer
Joanne Casella, At-Large Officer
Florence McCue, Retiree Representative