Winter is Here

As the hyper-contagious and vaccine-resistant Omicron variant overtakes Delta as the dominant strain in New York City, COVID-19 is poised to spread in our schools like never before. In response, our union leadership is offering up the Mayors’ promise for extra testing, more staff in the situation room, and reduced (yes, reduced) quarantining requirements as sufficient safety measures, which were (selectively) detailed in a recent email signaling to members that we’re reopening on Jan. 3 despite the surge. One key safety issue seems to have been swept under the rug:  it will now be impossible for many teachers to safely ventilate our classrooms.

This will be our first winter teaching inside physical buildings since 2020. Last school year (2020-2021), school buildings closed after Thanksgiving and didn’t reopen until the spring. We had some cold days, but never had to grapple with temperatures below freezing. Students will soon rightfully beg us to close our windows as the frigid January air gusts into unevenly heated rooms. But that’s a major problem, because for many NYC classrooms, windows are the only true source of ventilation. (Sure, we have air purifiers, but these noisy devices, which are impossible to teach over, aren’t  even actually HEPA-grade. So, if your electrical systems can even keep them running– many classrooms I’ve tried them in cannot–it’s unclear that they will do our staff or students much good anyways).

New Action is proud to be part of United for Change this year. We have put forward a much more comprehensive safety plan than what our union leadership just signed off on. Yes, increased testing is part of that (though, decreased quarantining is not). But if we’re going to keep schools open despite the escalation of the pandemic, then we’re going to need a whole lot more, including tackling ventilation during the winter. Until then, I guess we’ll just have to bundle up.


1 Response to “Winter is Here”

  1. 1 Khalill El December 30, 2021 at 11:10 am

    I agree with your post. The bad part is everyone is saying school are safe, but not speaking about what is not being done on a daily basis to keep everyone safe in the schools.

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December 2021

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