CUNY’s teacher union filed a restraining order against the university system on Tuesday to bar any in-person classes at the Hunter College Campus School on the Upper East Side until the building is deemed safe for students and staff to enter.
The lawsuit, filed by the Professional Staff Congress at the New York County Supreme Courthouse, claims CUNY violated its own COVID safety plan with the Hunter College-run K-12 school by failing to install HEPA filters that can properly capture particles carrying the virus.
“Teachers’ life-and-death concerns have been met with inaction by Hunter College President Jennifer Raab and HCCS Director Lisa Siegmann. Their demands for COVID testing, small classroom pods, independent inspections and other protections provided to students and staff at all other NYC public schools have been denied,” said PSC President Barbara Bowen in a press release. “Now we have learned Hunter isn’t even following its own, inadequate safety plan.”
The installation of HEPA filters in classroom ventilation systems was the first step in the campus school’s reopening plan issued by Hunter College on Aug. 20, according to the lawsuit. But on Sept. 14 teachers discovered that the college had yet to install and even purchase the filters. Instead, Hunter had purchased and installed air purifiers in classrooms whose efficacy against the virus is unknown.
One of the biggest worries among educators in the city about school reopening is proper ventilation in schools given the growing number of research supporting that the virus is more easily transmitted in stagnant air.