By DIANE S. WILLIAMS
On the frontlines protecting members safety and health during the COVID-19 pandemic is DC 37 and Local 372 President Shaun D. Francois I, who on Sept. 2, did a public school walk-through with Mayor de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza.
“Our first priority in this COVID-19 crisis is the health and safety of our members and the kids we help educate and care for,” said Francois.
Francois and the unions successfully convinced the mayor to postpone the start date for in-classroom learning to Sept. 21.
Despite the reopening delay, DOE employees are expected to report to their respective worksites the week of Sept. 8; Family Workers return Sept. 9, and School Aides return Sept. 10.
“Our school system has numerous challenges,” Francois explained. “Class sizes often have more than 30 or 35 students, and with the COVID-19 pandemic, overcrowding and outdated, poorly ventilated school buildings can spell disaster.”
New York City has the nation’s largest public school system with 1.1 million children.
Since the outbreak, Francois penned letters to the mayor and chancellor and met with them about PPE, social distancing and poor ventilation in school kitchens along with other safety concerns that have arisen from the pandemic.
In mid-March the mayor tasked 3,400 Local 372 members who are kitchen workers as essential workers, along with thousands of public sector employees DC 37 represents.
The 3,400 Local 372 kitchen helpers are working through the summer to feed children and food-insecure adults. They prepare tens of thousands of Grab-and-Go meals for breakfast and lunch served out of 400 schools across New York. The federal funded school feeding program has been extended through December.
Labor leaders of DC 37, Local 372, The United Federation of Teachers, the Council of School Supervisors & Administrators, and other unions representing Dept. of Education employees, are pressing the mayor to delay school openings until DOE develops a more comprehensive plan to stave off transmission of the deadly virus that the unions can accept.
With DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido, Francois said his leadership team are negotiating around the clock with city and DOE officials to protect the health of the 23,000 Local 372 members who are school support staff, of which 9,000 work feeding New York City school kids.
“We are being very cautious and vigilant as we proceed with any plans DOE has to reopen schools,” Francois said.