Teachers brought along visual aids, including handmade coffins and a guillotine, while protesting Mayor Bill de Blasio’s schools reopening plan in Lower Manhattan on Monday afternoon.
About 200 protesters many of them educators, parents and students marched from the United Federation of Teachers Headquarters to the NYC Department of Education offices near Foley Square.
“We demand safe schools,” they chanted.
They also carried at least two boxes designed to look like coffins, with black cloth draped over them, and three handmade body bags.
“Children cannot focus on schoolwork if their family members or teachers are in the hospital or dying,” said Frankie Cook, a kindergarten teacher at PS 261 in Brooklyn.
“Children cannot learn if they’re dead.”
The protesters were up in arms about the mayor’s plan for a partial reopening of the country’s biggest school system amid the coronavirus pandemic, asserting that the current model does not go far enough in terms of safety or logistical specificity.
“Hey-hey, ho-ho, Bill de Blasio has got to go!,” the group roared.
Under Hizzoner’s plan, “Schools will be like prisons,” said Cook, adding “Teachers’ main focus will be on enforcing health and safety because one slip could cause someone their lives.”
Anthony Bautista-Ramil, another Brooklyn educator whose colleague, Kimarlee Nguyen, died of COVID-19 in May, added that “The plan does not prioritize safety.”
The mayor has vowed to reopen schools in September as long as city coronavirus infection rates remain below 3 percent and City Hall has rolled out broad safety protocols for the upcoming year.
City Hall’s model will encourage, but not require, teachers to get tested just before the September start of the school year and will provide expedited testing and results for them at 34 centers.
But the United Federation of Teachers has pushed back and called for more stringent safety measures, including mandatory random testing throughout the year to guard against exposures.
The mayor defended the plan on Monday, claiming that: “It’s all about health and safety first.”