Date Posted

As we officially welcome fall and settle into our first full weeks of the year, we do so facing the continuing challenges presented by Covid, this time in the new requirement that school districts must comply with and ensure that all employees are tested weekly.


Before I get to the details of this requirement, I would like to be very clear in stating that my main concern is how divisive these issues have become, and I firmly believe there is no reason for that.  Everyone is entitled to their personal opinions about these matters. There are many varying points of view about the vaccines, the tests, the fact that the state is requiring testing, and fears about what will happen going forward. We can have our own views, without attacking others. There are times that state/district directives may be in contrast to our personal beliefs.  We are all capable of understanding that as employees, there are directives that our employers can implement. In this case, they are required to comply with state requirements, which in this case, is to ensure that their staff is tested weekly.  If any MITA member believes that they qualify for an exemption on religious or medical grounds, they should document that and send it to HR, Dr. Hagan.


We continue to work with the legal guidance from NYSUT, and the District, to assist our members in whatever ways we can. I have had multiple conversations with Dr. Lohman, HR Dr. Hagan, NYSUT and other Union Presidents on Long Island. Here is what we know so far:


  • The State’s directive released late on Thursday, September 2nd, requires school districts to test staff weekly unless the employee can provide proof of vaccination to opt-out of testing.


  • The requirement does not include any provision for perceived immunity. Having tested positive for Covid in the past is not an exemption from this directive.


  • Under the law, whether under the Department of Labor, public health (Department of Health), or anti- discrimination (EEOC), it is well documented that the rights of employers, when it comes to ensuring public health, are increased. They have the right to ask questions about health-related issues that are relevant to ensuring the safety of their workplaces.  


  • This information (vaccine status, testing documentation / results) is NOT HIPPA protected.  This is a mandate from the State. All school districts in the state are obligated to comply, and their compliance is in the form of ensuring that their staff is tested weekly.  


  • We have asked, but the District has not yet discussed with us the "what-ifs" in terms of potential non-compliance. Dr. Lohman indicated that it was his hope that this would not be necessary. We agree and hope that it is not necessary for them to detail what their response would be in that situation.  


  • The district is not compelled to provide testing on school time, and so far they are not doing so.  I met with Walgreen's yesterday morning to see what they can offer to help make testing as convenient as possible. The County continues to set up testing sites, but tests can be done anywhere they are offered. CVS, Walgreen's, CityMD, etc. Rapid tests or PCR tests are acceptable.  At this time, according to NYSUT info, the home-based tests are not accepted. I am waiting for more information if/when they might be accepted.  

I have received some concerns about the data being collected/stored and this has been discussed with Dr. Hagan.  SchoolFront is the platform and it will be stored within your individual account on SchoolFront. He has the only access to this once it is uploaded. This is the same platform being used to store our annual salary verification forms and last year's daily Covid attestations. The vaccination status and testing data provided will be stored securely and will not become part of our personnel files.

HR has distributed their bulletin about Covid protocols as far as quarantining and contact tracing, testing and returning to school from a quarantine, etc.

These are very tough times. But, allowing these requirements to divide us based on individuals' varying perspectives will needlessly compound the challenges we face.  Now more than ever, it is important to realize that we are stronger together; we cannot allow these issues to do more damage through divisiveness.

Please call the MITA office at 631-698-9100 with your individual questions.