K-6 teachers at the Hunter College Campus School returned on Tuesday for in-person classes after an independent COVID safety inspection cleared the building.
For weeks, teachers at the K-12 school controlled by CUNY have criticized administrators’ reopening plan for not including COVID-19 testing, safety inspections and for installing untested “air purifiers” instead of HEPA filters in classroom ventilation systems. Teachers, represented by the union the Professional Staff Congress, voted to support a safety strike over the weekend if CUNY did not agree to an independent inspection of the school ahead of reopening.
“The faculty and staff of the Hunter College Campus Schools took a brave stand for the safety of students, teachers and the community. Because of their advocacy and the support of their union, HCCS has been forced to implement a whole series of new safety protocols,” said President of PSC Barbara Bowen. “That the teachers were ready to strike helped to win a commitment to regular COVID testing, a safety inspection by an independent inspector, containment of dangerous mold, and a temporary restraining order that impelled Hunter to install HEPA air filters in classrooms. None of these protections was in place until the teachers and their union fought for them. “
Last week, a New York Supreme Court judge granted the union a temporary restraining barring the Hunter administration from requiring teachers and staff to return to classrooms without HEPA filters. Poor ventilation has been a longstanding issue given that there are virtually no windows in the “fortress-like” school nicknamed “the Brick Prison.” CUNY administrators purchased HEPA filters shortly after the union filed the restraining order and finished installing them last week.
CUNY also agreed to an independent safety inspection at the Silberman School of Social Work where 9th and 10th graders will take some of their classes on Oct. 1. but has not yet said when the inspection will take place.
Roughly 500,000 students returned to school on Tuesday for in-person learning as a part of the city’s hybrid model, according to City Hall. After delaying the start of in-person learning twice, de Blasio announced that pre-K, 3-K and District 75 schools would return to schools on Sept. 21 and students at K-5 and K-8 schools would begin in-person classes today. Students and middle schools and high schools taking part in hybrid learning will return to school on Oct. 1.