Five teachers have sued the city seeking to work from home in the upcoming school year because of health concerns posed by the coronavirus pandemic, new court papers show.
“Absent the requested relief, Petitioners and those educators similarly situated will face the Hobson’s choice of choosing between their own and their families’ safety, health, and possibly their lives, versus their own livelihoods and economic survival,” a Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit from Friday alleges.
Schools are set to reopen this fall with a hybrid curriculum of online and in-person classes slated to begin respectively on Sept. 16 and 21. As part of the plan to reopen classrooms, random monthly COVID-19 tests will be given to 20 percent of students and teachers.
Four teachers and one substitute — Shannon Corwin, Umang Desai, Eric Severson, Tamdeka Hughes-Carroll and Wanda Caine — claim in the lawsuit that there are too many risks and challenges facing Department of Education staff if they are forced to teach at school facilities, rather than online, the court papers show.
Many teachers, students and staff will take public transportation to campuses, which themselves are poorly ventilated and sanitized, the suit says, also citing finding child care and the potential for exposing elderly family as obstacles, the court papers say.
The plaintiffs — who work in schools across the city — don’t fall within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to be eligible for remote teaching, “but should also be allowed to work remotely due to serious health and safety risks to themselves and their families,” the suit says.
Meanwhile, the state court system is limiting foot traffic in courthouses while indoor dining and recreation are still banned in the city. This all comes while schools continue with the plan to reopen, the court papers say.
“Without a rational basis, respondents are requiring millions of public school employees and students in New York City to return to brick and mortar school buildings on September 8, 2020 amid an unacceptably high level of COVID-19 inflections across the country and smaller clusters of coronavirus popping up on college campuses in the Tri State area,” the suit charges.
The teachers have brought a potential class-action suit against the city and the DOE seeking a court order allowing them to work from home — without losing leave of absence days and while maintaining their full salary — so as to “protect themselves and families from communal spread of coronavirus,” the court filing shows.
On Friday, around 100 teachers protested outside the homes of Mayor Bill de Blasio and DOE Chancellor Richard Carranza over classrooms reopening on Sept. 21 without proper safeguards in place.
DOE spokeswoman Danielle Filson told The Post, “Throughout the entire pandemic we have prioritized health and safety for our students, teachers and staff, and the plan we developed together with the [United Federation of Teachers] and other labor partners does the same. We will oppose the lawsuit.”
The city Law Department did not immediately return a request for comment.