New York City’s Department of Education will open a new “COVID Command Center” where principals can quickly address staffing issues, Mayor Eric Adams announced Monday.
The new center opens as COVID-19 cases surge in the city, leading to some teacher absences, according to the teachers union, and one temporary school closure.
Adams vowed that city schools will stay open, citing city health department data that suggest that 1% of students are infected in schools. He said that the education department has distributed 1.5 million rapid coronavirus tests to schools around the city for educators and students to use, and that the city had “shored up” its pool of substitute teachers.
“We need to be calm,” Adams said, speaking outside an elementary school in the Bronx. “If we feel this sense of anxiety, we're going to make the wrong calls.”
Adams’ announcement of a new “command center” comes as parents have voiced increasing concern about the education department’s situation room, which coordinates testing and reporting of cases to schools and parents.
Adams said he is considering a testing mandate for students to require routine, random testing; currently, testing is opt-in for both vaccinated and unvaccinated children. Mandated testing, he said, would “give us the information we need” to monitor infections in schools.
Currently, just one school — PS 58, in Brooklyn — is closed. The school will reopen Tuesday.
“My guarantee today is that we are not relaxing our standards. We are reinforcing them,” said schools commissioner David Banks. “We owe it to our children to do everything we can to keep our schools safe and to keep them open.”
In an interview on NY1 on Monday morning, Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, did not call for remote learning, and confirmed that city schools have rapid tests.
With @NYCSchools set to reopen today after the winter break, @UFT president Michael Mulgrew says testing remains the "first line of defense" but adds staffing concerns will be a big factor this week. #MorningsOn1 pic.twitter.com/yLrRPjFBzw— Spectrum News NY1 (@NY1) January 3, 2022
“Our concern is staffing for the next couple days, because we don't know what's going to happen today in terms of the number of adults who are going to go to work, because we know that this variant is quite pervasive,” Mulgrew said.