Two Brooklyn public school teachers test positive for COVID-19

School classroom with blackboard
Photo via Getty Images

Two New York City public school teachers have tested positive for COVID-19 the day after school buildings reopened for staffers. 

The  Justice caucus within the city’s United Federation of Teachers, known as MORE UFT, tweeted three instructors had tested positive for the virus at P.S. 1 The Bergen Elementary School in Sunset Park, M.S. 88 The Park Slope Education Complex and P.S. 11 The Purvis J Behan Elementary School in Clinton Hill. 

The Department of Education confirmed that a teacher at P.S. 1 and M.S. 88 tested positive and that families had been notified in writing last night. Neither school was closed, and staff was given the option to work from home as the city reaches out to the infected teachers’ contacts. 

“School staff have access to free, expedited testing and we’ve encouraged all staff to get tested before they return to buildings while we continue to navigate the realities of a pandemic,” DOE spokesperson Miranda Barbot wrote in an email to amNewYork Metro. “Our protocol is to immediately notify staff and Test and Trace will begin an investigation to determine any close contacts. We’ll require any staff identified as close contacts to quarantine, and remain vigilant to prevent spread.” 

Mayor de Blasio has said that schools will not remain open if the cases in the city surpass 3% over a 7-day rolling average and for the last week the rate of infection as remained at around 1%. 

Both teachers are isolating in their homes, according to the DOE letter sent to M.S. 88 families. Although Mayor Bill de Blasio delayed the start of the school year until Sept. 21, teachers and other school staff returned to buildings yesterday to plan for the upcoming school year. Teachers are not required to get tested before returning to school but are encouraged by the city to so. Once classes begin, the city will begin randomly testing between 10% and 20% of school populations every month. 

The Brooklyn teachers are the first confirmed cases of an instructor testing positive for the virus upon school buildings reopening. 

Both teachers were asymptomatic but decided to get COVID-19 tests before returning to their respective schools just to be safe, according to Chair of the City Council Education Committee Mark Treyger. A report on the sick teachers shared with Treyger this morning revealed that when the two received their results, they notified school administrators who in turn reached out to the DOE to begin contact tracing efforts.

“What I saw was due diligence by two educators,” said Treyger who has been openly critical of the city’s hybrid reopening plan and released a more cautious proposal. To the councilmember, what was missing from the slim reports on the two positive cases served as proof that the city is repeating mistakes it made during the height of the pandemic.  “They did the right thing, they notified their administration. But where was the isolation room? Where was the interagency coordination group put together to make sure that the mistakes of March would not happen in September?”

New York City’s school reopening plan requires that all schools have a designated isolation room for students with coronavirus symptoms. Students and teachers with temperatures over 100° are barred from entering buildings and those who test positive for the virus will be forced into self-isolation for at least 10 days.