American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and New York State United Teachers President Andrew Pallotta issued the following joint statement after New York state reversed previous guidance for reopening schools as COVID-19 cases continue to spike.
“Over the past week, we have seen 6 out of 10 regions in the state surpass the 9 percent state infection rate threshold that was set by the Reimagine Education Advisory Council in the summer. Educator confidence in the safety of our school buildings has fallen as COVID rates have risen in our communities.
“We have a moral duty to follow the science on reopening — that’s why New York schools should immediately go to remote learning if positivity rates exceed 9 percent, as calculated by the state. The science is what drove the Council, on which Randi served, and was the basis for the threshold.
“There are many ways to mitigate risk, but weakening school safety standards is not one of them. We’re seeing new research from Europe that says schools can be vectors.
“But in New York schools that have reopened, the safety guardrails we’ve put in place ensured in-school spread has been curbed. We can’t throw up our hands now—the positivity triggers for closing must be upheld, and if they are exceeded, we must close buildings and then redouble our efforts to crush community spread so they can reopen.
“Let’s not make the mistake of undoing the bonds of trust among parents, educators and districts that we’ve spent months building up. We’re all tired of COVID and know kids need to be in school buildings. But we can’t make educators expendable.”