Community Stakeholders, Electeds And Others Join The NAACP’s Call Not To Reopen NYC Schools

Dear Mayor de Blasio:

The NAACP New York State Conference of Branches has sent you and the Chancellor of Education Dr. Richard Carranza several letters since the beginning of June, 2020.

This included the NAACP’s Proposal for Reopening New York City Public Schools. As of September 1st, 2020, we have not received any response.


The NAACP and our Citywide Partners are appalled that You and/or the Chancellor have not yet presented to our parents or our Communities’ Essential Educational Workers, Teachers, Principals or Unions, a plan that adequately addresses the life and death urgency of safety in reopening schools in New York City. Neither have you presented a plan for Remote Learning that addresses the urgent need for quality education inclusive of the necessary resources and access.

Below is a list of questions to which the NAACP and our Citywide Partners listed below are requesting immediate answers.

Sincerely, and on behalf of,

Hazel Dukes
President
NAACP NYS Conference

Hon. Brian Benjamin
State Senator

Lloyd Williams
President & CEO
The Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce

Dr. Joan Dawson
Chair
Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement

Hon. Gale Brewer
Manhattan Borough President

Hon. C. Virginia Fields
President & CEONational Black Leadership Commission on Health

Arva Rice
President
New York Urban League

Dr. Vincent Boudreau
President
The City College of New York

Michael Garner
Chair of the Corporate Board
One Hundred Black Men of New York

Winston Majette
Executive Director
ProfessorHARLEM WEEK, Inc.

Dr. Maysa Azzeh
Associate Professor
Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine-Harlem

Jackie Rowe-Adams
Chairperson
Harlem Mothers SAVE

George Young
NAACP Education Task Force

Dr. Satayi Beckles-Canton
PresidentHarlem Parent Alliance

Reverend Jacques Degraff
Associate Pastor
Canaan Baptist Church of Christ

Dr. Kellie Bryant, DNP, WHNP, CHSE
Executive Director of Simulation and Assistant
Columbia University School of Nursing

Clayton Banks
Founder
Silicon Harlem

Reverend Malcolm Byrd
Senior Pastor
Mother AME Zion Church

Dr. Sandye Johnson
NAACP Education Taskforce


The Letter

Our Education Chair, Christine Waters, and members of the Education Task Force have been working diligently to put in place the NAACP proposal for reopening of schools and remote learning. Our proposal was submitted to Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and Chancellor Carranza.

While we did receive a positive and receptive response from the Governor and have been in communication with his senior staff.  We have never received to date a response or acknowledgment from the Mayor or the Chancellor.

It has been made very clear to us from the vast majority of medical experts and scientists that we should not reopen our schools until the public is ensuring that our Children, Parents, Teachers, and Essential Workers will be in a safe and healthy educational environment.

Therefore, the NAACP Education Task Force has informed us that the NAACP must oppose the reopening of New York City Public schools until the Mayor and the Chancellor submit a revised plan that addresses these immediate urgent issues.

Furthermore, on remote learning, we wish to receive a satisfactory answer, which confirms that all of our children– those in disenfranchised communities as well as those in shelters and –will have the resources and working computers (i.e. Wi-Fi) necessary to ensure that remote teaching will be accessible with quality learning for all children and their family members.


The Questions & Concerns

1. In what ways does this plan meet the health guidelines set forth by the Center for Disease Control?

2. Who are the entities and health experts who you have consulted with while developing your plan?

3. What specific procedures have been put in place to implement testing, and tracing among children, teachers, and staff? How will visitors to the buildings be monitored?

4. What are the provisions for children, teachers, and staff who have either tested positive for the virus or been exposed to the virus? How long must they be quarantined before returning to school? Will the permanent and per diem substitute teachers, teaching assistants, staff not covered by the union or healthcare be tested and be provided the same healthcare screenings and protection as regular teachers?

5. Health studies indicate that children and adults can be asymptomatic and that temperature checks are NOT the best indicator of illness in this case. What are the plan for monitoring asymptomatic, children, and staff?

6. How often will testing take place, and who is responsible for testing staff, teachers, students?

7. In addition to committing to having a nurse at each school, there needs to be a resource person managing the guidance regarding testing, tracing, referrals, and follow-up. Who will be responsible for this at each school?

8. Who will be monitoring and following up on student absences, reasons for absences, and truant students?

9. The science has demonstrated that coronavirus can spread through droplets in the air (i.e. from breathing, talking, sneezing, singing, etc.) as well as through dust particles; this is why it is incredibly important to enforce mask-wearing for all students and staff, social distancing, and provide for air filtration for all districts equitably. It is not safe until, at the very least, all issues regarding the transmission of droplets in closed spaces and poorly ventilated spaces and on transportation are addressed for the safety of all students, faculty, administration, staff, and families concerned. Many schools’ HVAC systems have needed to be repaired and upgraded to include HEPA air filters. Wealthier districts have been able to make the decision to go onto remote learning until their systems are upgraded. These challenges and inequalities prompt questions:

a. Will there be a mandate for every person to wear a mask? How will you enforce this?

b. Will masks be provided to all children and personnel?

c. How will droplet formation be controlled during unmasked breaks and lunchtime to protect the students, teachers, and staff?

d. How will you provide for the need for upgrading HVAC systems to provide fresh air indoors, air conditioning and HEPA air filtration to remove the virus from the air, especially in buildings that are in disrepair (especially in districts that do not have the funding)? We cannot ignore the science. (See the attached article regarding air circulation/ filtration, and ventilation. This article is just one of many that confirms this research; this issue deserves heightened priority for the foreseeable future.)

10. The safety, security, and affordability of transportation is especially important to ensure our students have equal access to education. What alternatives are being provided to students who previously used school buses, trains, or subways? How can transportation remain socially distanced? What transportation accommodations are being made for special needs students? How will the buses manage to control the virus and upgrade their air circulation systems and sanitization? Will the bus drivers also be tested and protected? If school bus contracts are canceled, are new contracts with rider-share companies being explored?

11. What are the logistics involved in remote learning for teachers and students? How do we ensure access to technology and the internet is equitable for all students? Will access to tablets and WiFi support for students be available? What products will be utilized? (Apple products? Chromebooks?) What accommodations are being made for students struggling with homelessness or in families facing eviction?

12. What social, emotional, and mental support systems will be in place for students, staff, and families struggling with illness or loss of life?

If you have any questions or need more information go to https://www.nysnaacp.org/

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