DOE ramping up ventilation checks ahead of NYC school reopening

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday unveiled an 11th-hour plan to inspect ventilation systems at city schools to guard against coronavirus exposure — about two weeks before the scheduled start of the new academic year.

De Blasio said that “ventilation teams” began vetting classrooms this week.

“The school ventilation action teams will be part of a massive cross-agency initiative to make sure every school is ready and every school is safe,” de Blasio said Tuesday alongside Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza.

Both the city principals and teachers unions have asserted that poor circulation in often antiquated city school buildings exposes staff and students to heightened risk of coronavirus infection.

The issue has been a primary plank in their continuing objection to the resumption of classroom learning in just a matter of weeks.

Roughly 100 DOE staffers — including administrators and teachers — have died from COVID-19, according to the department.

De Blasio said inspectors will be combing all school spaces to check for operable windows and to identify classrooms in need of exhaust fans and other equipment.

Carranza said the initiative began Tuesday and that every classroom will be required to satisfy a checklist for proper occupancy, working windows and adequate exhaust.

Spaces that do not qualify will be taken out of service until they are deemed safe, he said.

Richard Carranza visiting a Brooklyn school.
Richard Carranza visiting a Brooklyn schoolPaul Martinka

Inspections will be carried out by FDNY units, custodial engineers and Department of Buildings staff, officials said.

“We anticipate we can get this done by September 1st,” said School Construction Authority chief Lorraine Grillo. “Some will take longer, some will be shorter.”

De Blasio said the new campaign augments existing school building checks that normally take place during the summer.

The United Federation of Teachers did not immediately respond to a request for comment on de Blasio’s ventilation safety pledge.

But many teachers remained deeply skeptical of the DOE’s ability to ensure proper circulation in school classrooms, especially during the winter when windows will likely be shut.

City Hall has been chipping away at a list of reopening concerns from the unions in recent weeks to erode opposition and allow a revival of the nation’s largest school system.

But the UFT and the Council of Supervisors and Administrators both issued press releases Monday signaling their ongoing concerns over safety and logistics.

The UFT has demanded that every student and teacher be tested for COVID-19 before the start of the school year — and has threatened to strike or take other actions if that doesn’t take place.

“The mayor’s reopening plan continues to fall short, particularly in terms of necessary testing,” union president Michael Mulgrew said Monday.

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