The head of the union representing School Safety Agents questioned whether his members working in schools closed because of multiple coronavirus cases were tested before being transferred to another school building.
When two or more confirmed cases of COVID occur in separate classrooms at the same school, the school is closed and staff and students are required to quarantine, according to Department of Education procedures. But School Safety Agents, who work for the Police Department and are considered front-line workers, are instead assigned to other schools after a closing.
Protocol for Agents
“Any exposed Agents are directed to get tested and be guided by the NYPD Medical Division. If the Agent does not test positive, the Medical Division policy is return them to work and for the exposed Agent to use PPE, maintain social distance and monitor their symptoms,” said Sgt. Jessica McRorie, a spokeswoman for the department.
In addition to their regular duties, School Safety Agents have been performing health checks on students when they enter school buildings.
DOE spokesman Nathaniel Styer said that the Agents “should seek testing if they are a close contact with a positive case.”
Last month, more than 160 schools were closed in red, orange and yellow zones in Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods that have seen upticks in coronavirus cases.
Over the past few weeks, the city’s seven-day average COVID-positivity rate has increased. As of Nov. 12, there were 55 schools across the city closed because of COVID, meaning that Agents working in those buildings were assigned elsewhere.
Doubts They're Being Tested
But Gregory Floyd, the president of Teamsters Local 237, said he had not seen any indication that his members were being tested and expressed doubt this occurred prior to their being assigned to other schools.
“I’m not against them being sent to other schools, I’m against them being sent without testing,” he explained.
The objective in closing schools immediately after COVID cases become known is to prevent students and staff from potentially contracting the disease.
“But if they have COVID and were sent to another school, then you’re spreading COVID,” Mr. Floyd said. “This administration is not forward-thinking at all.”
The department did not answer questions regarding how long after a school closing School Safety Agents must test and whether they must provide documentation of a negative test result.
Creeping Toward Shutdown
The union leader’s concern comes as the school system faces another potential shutdown. The city’s seven-day average COVID-positivity rate was 2.6 percent as of Nov. 12.
Mayor de Blasio reaffirmed that all schools would close if the city’s seven-day average COVID positivity rate reaches 3 percent.
“No one wants to see that happen,” he said. “The standard was put forward…to say to parents and students, to say to educators and staff, that we would act out of an abundance of caution to really protect our school communities.”
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