State education officials appear to be backtracking off an order to bar administrators from requiring student COVID-19 testing consent forms to take part in school activities.
Assistant Commissioner Kathleen DeCataldo stake out the new position on the polarizing issue on Tuesday.
“The Department hereby clarifies that parent/guardian consent for COVID-19 testing of students may not be a condition of in-person learning or other school activities,” she wrote in underlined and bolded language.
City Hall is currently requiring students to submit COVID-19 testing forms to take part in any on-site activity — including classroom instruction.
But less than 24-hours after sending out the letter, the New York State Education Department indicated that their position was now in transit.
“After concerns were raised by the field, we are working to further clarify the guidance and will release updated guidance in the next day or two,” said spokesperson Emily DeSantis.
Mayor Bill de Blasio addressed the issue at his daily briefing on Wednesday and indicated that the city was in talks with state officials over the order.
“We were surprised,” he said. “And there’s been a good dialogue since then. I’m confident that we will be able to continue our current practice. It has been working. It’s the right way to do things.”
The city teacher’s union blasted the state’s initial position in a Tuesday statement.
“The New York State Education Department statement directly contradicts the reopening plan submitted by New York City and approved by SED that mandates random COVID-19 testing of students and staff — a key element of the plan that has kept our schools the safest places in our communities,” said United Federation of Teachers chief Michael Mulgrew. “We have received no official notice that New York City’s plan is no longer approved.”
As part of their reopening plan, City Hall said that students who lacked the testing consent form would be disallowed from any building activity.
The DOE also barred parents from being present during in-school testing and declined to recognize test results from private physicians.
Officials said that parental presence would spur undue traffic in school buildings and that allowing independent screening results would complicate their assessments.
De Blasio argued that the consent requirement ensured that school population testing would be representative.
Some parents rejected the consent form hurdle, contending that it was a violation of their educational rights.
Others said they didn’t want their kids to undergo any medical testing out of their sight.
The city removed 12,000 noncompliant kids from classroom learning in December and enrolled them into a fully remote format.