NEW YORK CITY — With New York City middle school students returning to in-person learning on Monday, the state has banned Mayor Bill de Blasio from requiring parents to fill out forms consenting their children to random COVID-19 testing as a pre-requisite for returning to the classroom.
In a letter obtained by Scripps station WPIX in New York City on Tuesday, New York Assistant Education Commissioner Kathleen DeCataldo wrote, "parent/guardian consent for COVID-19 testing of students may not be a condition of in-person learning or other school activities."
The letter clarified that while schools in designated microcluster zones must test a specific percentage of in-person students, teachers, and staff, there is currently no requirement to test 100% of the school population.
DeCataldo wrote that a school district "cannot impose remote instruction on students whose parents/guardians do not consent to surveillance test for COVID-19."
The directive seems to apply directly to New York City's protocols.
Back in December, 12,000 students were forced into remote learning when their parents declined to consent to COVID-19 testing in schools.
Under an agreement that the city made with the United Federation of Teachers union, 10% of all students, first grade and up, must be randomly tested to keep tabs on possible coronavirus spread in schools.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew seemed blindsided and bewildered by the state's guidance in a statement released Tuesday night:
"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. We have received no official notice that New York City's plan is no longer approved," Mulgrew said.
De Blasio's office did not respond to a request for comment.
It was unclear how the new directive could change protocols next week as middle schools resume in-person learning.
This story was originally published by Anthony DiLorenzo, Kala Rama and Mark Sundstrom on WPIX in New York City.