As the Omicron-driven pandemic surge continues to rage, and schools strive to meet their goal to provide in-person instruction, local union leaders are pushing for help to address myriad acute logistical problems.
“Every local union president I’ve spoken with this week is perplexed, confused and disappointed with a lack of guidance and resources from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta.
“We all want to open schools, but only if they can be safe for educators and students alike,” he said.
Pallotta explained that schools face practical impossibilities. They are grappling with COVID-19 cases among the staff needed to keep classrooms open, and struggling with how to maintain safety when students test positive.
The federal government has promised to purchase and supply virus tests for students, but many local schools have not been able to get them yet. And the tests also must be provided for educators and staff.
“Without them, schools can’t keep up with infections and scan their communities for the disease,” Pallotta said.
“Despite the appropriate goal of sending all students back to school this winter, if there are logistical issues like the ones I’m hearing about — raging infection rates and related shortages of critical staff — then that school has to be on a temporary pause,” he said.
The CDC also needs to shore up and clarify its ever-fluid quarantine recommendations that are causing confusion and frustration in districts all over the country.
Before the pandemic, NYSUT’s Fund our Future initiative addressed the chronic lack of resources that posed an existential threat to public schools.
The statewide union’s new Future Forward initiative would draw on the state and federal COVID-related resources that have emerged to sculpt permanent improvements in the state’s education system.
“The resources must get to communities and their local schools for us all to meet our goals,” Pallotta said.