NYC health committee chair ‘doesn’t feel like we’re quite there yet’ on return to schools

Reopening Schools

NEW YORK — With just days left until students return to New York City classrooms, the head of the City Council’s Health Committee suggested weekly testing in schools for students and staff, regardless of vaccination status.

A city vaccination mandate is in effect for teachers and staff and masks will required in school buildings, but many have concerns about schools as the delta variant continues to spread. New York’s plan is to test 10 percent of students and staff every two weeks, Councilman Mark Levine tweeted.

“That’s not good enough,” he said. “Testing 10% of school communities biweekly will help track the virus’s overall trend, but it will do very little to reduce outbreaks. That’s why many experts recommend weekly testing in schools.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio recently said if all adults in school buildings are vaccinated, students will be safe and if more testing is needed in certain schools or areas, it will be added.

Levine said the key components to keep schools safe are masks, good ventilation, testing and vaccination for all adults.

High school teacher Ruth Chask said there should be conversations about mandating vaccines for students who are eligible to take the vaccine.

“I think students should be required too if they’re eligible,” Chasek said. “We force them to get all these other vaccines. This is the most deadly.”

There’s still a lot of ground to cover when it comes to ventilation. According to a report by Gothamist, 1,500 classrooms are still undergoing ventilation repairs.

A Department of Education official said repairs are constantly being made. The spokesperson said students would not be in classrooms without proper air circulation.

The union representing teachers said they’re looking into ventilation issues.

Teachers said they still need soap, paper towels, hand air dryers and sanitizer in schools.

Levine said he doesn’t feel schools are quite there yet in terms of preparedness for a return to in-person learning, but he’s hoping schools will get there.

A City Council hearing on school COVID protocols was set for Wednesday.

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