Posts Tagged 'COVID-19'

This is Not What We Meant by a Remote Option…

We need a remote option. The new deal worked out by the UFT and DOE isn’t one.

Why we need a Remote Option

As COVID-19 spirals out of control in our schools, infecting students, teachers, and their families, our Mayor and Chancellor refuse to temporarily make schooling remote. If we’re going to have schools open amidst record high positivity rates, the least we can do is give the option for students to work remotely. This way:

  1. Students with personal or familial health concerns could learn from the comfort of their own homes without fear of contracting COVID-19 and/or spreading the illness to their loved ones.  
  2. Students who want to learn in-person would have access to classrooms that aren’t overcrowded during a pandemic. With a remote option, it would be possible in many schools to maintain 6+ feet of social distancing rather than the current 3- feet of social distancing. 
  3. In-person teachers would also have reduced exposure to COVID-19, and with many classes meeting remotely, we could potentially renegotiate telecommuting options for teachers with personal or familial health concerns. 

The New Agreement is Not a Remote Option

However, the announced plans to support students to work remotely– a ‘livestreaming option’ that hasn’t even been negotiated with the UFT, and another option for non-quaranting students to get access to asynchronous work and remote office hours–fall far from constituting a ‘remote option.’ Let’s take a look at each:

Livestreaming doesn’t work. There’s a reason that last year classes were either remote or in-person. Teaching two different types of classes at once means the teacher inevitably becomes exhausted and teaches both classes less effectively. As many of us are already having APPR weaponized against us in the context of a pandemic, now is not the time to teach less effectively to make up for the DOE’s failure to provide a real remote option. We especially shouldn’t livestream, because it’s not a good solution for the students. Students who join in-person classes from a Zoom account at home often find it to be an alienating experience. In-person assignments don’t always translate well remotely, and teachers are generally too busy managing their in-person students to devote much attention to students at home. Remote students deserve actual remote classes tailored to their needs, not badly broadcasted in-person classes.

The Updated Remote Agreement on the other hand is a joke of an attempt at a remote option. Teachers already have a mandated responsibility to conduct remote office hours for students who are quarantining (which sets a terrible precedent of forced overtime for teachers who have many conflicting after-school responsibilities, and is essentially an extension of the work-day that should have been subject to a vote, but I digress). What the new agreement does is allow teachers the option of also providing said office hours (and asynchronous work) to students who aren’t on the quarantine list. However, there’s no mandate here, and both principals and teachers have to agree to it. Some principals might not necessarily have the funding to implement the plan, whereas other principals might allow it but find that teachers are unable to devote their time to the extra work. Therefore, depending on a student’s principal and teacher(s), they might not get anything under this agreement. And even if they do get the office hours and asynchronous work, that’s a far cry from a full week of remote instruction. 

We need to implement a real remote option now. Students at home deserve quality remote instruction, and teachers can only provide that if they’re given the right tools/space to do so. That doesn’t look like livestreaming, and it doesn’t look like optional and occasional office hours. It looks like dedicated remote classes. Because Unity Caucus and the DOE didn’t ‘do the work’ to negotiate a remote option at the beginning of the year, time is not on our side. Reprogramming students to make this happen would be an astronomical task, and with the new semester approaching at the end of this month, we need to act fast. But, the time is now to implement a true remote option. We owe it to our students, teachers, and communities.

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Mulgrew’s Delayed Response

Today on television, UFT President Michael Mulgrew made a statement about COVID in our schools. Why did it take him so long to come forward? In the last five days alone there were over 3,000 cases of infection in the schools. In just one day -on December 16 there were a total of 571 confirmed cases, including 336 students and 195 teachers, with 374 classroom closures. The data from the DOE clearly shows that since the start of school on Sept. 13 there have been 21,175 cases of COVID. The media has been showing teachers and staff at several schools  demonstrating in front of their schools highlighting unsafe conditions. So the question stands- why didn’t Mulgrew sound the alarm and advocate for his members when everyone could see what was happening? Why wasn’t he listening to his District Reps and Chapter Leaders who were surely communicating with him? And why did he wait until after the United for Change coalition issued a statement on the COVID crisis before speaking out?

Michael Shulman, Chair, New Action/UFT

New Action Member Speaks out on COVID Safety


If you read OSHA’s mission statement you will discover that this governmental agency was set up to ensure the workplace is safe for all. While doing my research it was not clear whether or not our unsafe schools (in case you forgot, Covid is rampant in our schools) was covered by OSHA. However, I came to learn New York State operates an OSHA-approved state plan “covering only state and local government workers.” I would love to know why the  Union leadership (that is you, Mr. Mulgrew), and your staff of attorneys isn’t filing a complaint to close schools. The pandemic is raging. School staff and students are getting sick and are at great peril. As the numbers rise exponentially, where is the Union to protect staff? Rome is burning, Mr. Mulgrew. Spend a little less time with the movers and shakers of NYC  politics and more time instructing your attorneys to file a complaint with the NY State OSHA approved agency.


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Content of signed articles and comments represents the opinions of their authors. The views expressed in signed articles are not necessarily the views of New Action/UFT.
December 2022
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