NYC teachers union threatens strike, calls for mandatory coronavirus tests

The United Federation of Teachers is urging all parents to opt for remote learning unless New York City's public schools follow guidelines they have released for safety reviews, testing protocols, and other features and are threatening to strike if it doesn't happen.

During a news conference Wednesday in Lower Manhattan, UFT President Michael Mulgrew detailed a three-phase plan with an extensive checklist to determine whether schools will be ready.  Based on the union's criteria, most schools will not be ready to open for the start of the new school year.

The plan calls for adequate personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies.  It also says a COVID-19 response team needs to be on-site at each school.   The union wants screening and testing of everyone entering school buildings. Only those who can show proof they are free of coronavirus would be allowed to enter.

The UFT believes as many as 750,000 children and adults will need testing before school resumes.  There are about 1.1 million children in the nation's largest school system.

"We are asking the mayor to adopt this school safety report," said Mulgrew. "It is time."

The UFT is sending about 100 members into 1,400 school buildings to check for health and safety measures that include the presence of a school nurse, a six-foot separation between student desks, sufficient masks, and other protective equipment, working ventilation systems to reduce the concentration of air-borne virus particles, and an isolation/quarantine room for students who develop symptoms of infection.

"We owe too much, too much to the communities that have suffered so greatly. We also owe it to them to give them assurances that we are doing everything as a city, a complete community, that we are here to support and hold our schools the most sacred asset of our communities safe," said Mulgrew.

The tentative reopening date for NYC schools is Sept. 10. The UFT said it wants the date pushed back to ensure all schools meet the criteria.

"Most schools will not be ready on Sept. 10," said Mulgrew.

The city's reopening plan is based on 'Blended Learning' --where students are in the classroom two to three days a week and learning from home on the others. 

"The minute we feel the mayor is trying to force people into a situation that is unsafe, we go. We go to court. We go to job action," said Mulgrew.

Get breaking news alerts in the FOX5NY News app. It is FREE! Download for iOS or Android