Teachers and staff at about 20 NYC schools told to work remotely due to ventilation issues

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By Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech

New York City’s Department of Education is instructing the staff at about 20 schools to not return to their buildings on Tuesday, Sept. 8, due to airflow issues found during recent ventilation system inspections.

Teachers, principals, and other school staff are expected to return to school buildings tomorrow to prepare for the upcoming school year. Initially, classes were set to begin on Sept. 10 but Mayor Bill de Blasio delayed the start of school until Sept. 21, after pressure intensified to delay the beginning of in-person classes from parents and teachers claiming that schools were not ready to reopen citing issues with ventilation systems in classrooms and a lack of COVID-19 testing for students and staffers.

On Labor Day Monday, the Department of Education released updated findings from a series of school ventilation system inspections that began in late August. The city had pledged to finish inspections by Sept. 1 and post the results online on Friday, Sept. 4, but officials missed both deadlines.

Despite numerous calls for a delay to in-person classes, de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza repeatedly said that the city’s nearly 1,800 public schools would be ready to receive students some days of the week by Sept. 10. But the pressure to delay continued to mount earlier this month and the city public school teacher union threatened a job action, including an illegal strike, if more time wasn’t given to its members to ensure that school buildings could safely reopen.

The Sept. 8 report found that engineers inspected both “mechanical and natural” ventilation systems in rooms inside of 1,485 schools, according to the DOE. Officials are informing the principals Monday whether rooms in their schools had adequate airflow to accommodate students and teachers with all “room-level” determinations will be posted online tomorrow.

“Since June 3rd, we’ve been surveying, assessing, repairing, and improving buildings to guarantee proper ventilation, which is defined as the free flow of fresh air in and out of a space, and can, in the vast majority of cases, be achieved by having an open window,” said DOE spokesperson Nathanial Styer.

The city is currently working to identifying alternative spaces for classes if the repairs inside of the 10 buildings housing the schools can not be completed by Sept. 21. School leaders are expected to work with the Division of School Facilities staff on repair timelines and determining the impact of temporary classroom closures on school programming. All repairs though are expected to be completed with the “next couple of days,” according to Styer.

The Division of School Facilities is also working to install portable High-Efficiency Particulate Air filters in rooms, flush air two hours before and after occupation and upgrading MERV-8 to MERV-13 filters where appropriate to improve air circulation.

Here is a list of the impacted schools:

 

Building Code Impacted Schools
K045

 

PS 45 – Horace E. Greene School

 

K842

 

PS 45 – Horace E. Greene School (Annex Building)

 

M490 (Martin Luther King Jr. Educational Campus)

 

The Maxine Greene HS for Imaginative Inquiry

Urban Assembly School for Media Studies

High School for Law, Advocacy and Community Justice

High School of Arts and Technology

Manhattan / Hunter Science High School

Special Music School

M883

 

P.S. M721 – Manhattan Occupational Training Center

Harvest Collegiate High School

 

M894

 

Leadership & Public Service High School
Q222

 

P.S. Q222 – Fire Fighter Christopher A. Santora School
Q315

 

 

The Riverview School

P.S. 110

M340

 

P.S. M094

Sixth Avenue Elementary School

M620 (Norman Thomas High School building)

 

Success Academy Charter School – Harlem 1

Success Academy Charter School – Harlem 3

Manhattan Academy for Arts & Language

Murray Hill Academy

Unity Center for Urban Technologies

M833

 

High School of Economics and Finance

 

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