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Public School 79 In East Harlem To Remain Closed Due To COVID-19 Cluster; Remote Learning In Place Until Sept. 28

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- One week into the school year and New York City is closing its first school due to a cluster of COVID-19 cases.

The teacher's union says it highlights the need for the city to ramp up the frequency of testing, CBS2's Lisa Rozner reported Sunday.

The doors of Public School 79 on Madison Avenue and East 120th Street in East Harlem will be shut on Monday.

READ MORECOVID Impact: Some Parents In Jersey City Keep Children Home From School After District Reports Positive Cases

Students are reverting to virtual learning until next Tuesday, Sept. 28, after the city's Test and Trace Corps found evidence of transmission of COVID-19 within the facility.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said there are 19 confirmed cases, and City Council Education Chair Mark Treyger said 45 others are quarantined.


"What about the parents who have to work? What's that Plan B? What about the devices? What about the internet?" Brewer said.

The Department of Education said it is making sure each student has a device and it will offer grab-and-go meals. A spokesperson said the cases are among staff members and linked to an orientation that happened before school started.

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But in a letter to the mayor and schools chancellor on Sunday, the United Federation of Teachers called for a "rigorous weekly testing protocol," as opposed to the current policy which tests 10% of a school's unvaccinated students and staffers every two weeks.

Lydia Howrilka does not teach at Public School 79, but is part of a teachers union caucus called UFT Solidarity.

"It's only kids who have actually submitted a consent form to be tested. So, it's just really questionable as to who's being tested and there may be a lot of people who are not being tested, who probably should be," Howrilka said. "We truly believe that a remote option could reduce class size. It would also then increase social distancing."


In a statement responding to the union's letter, the DOE said, in part, it "will continue to base our health and safety protocols off the guidance of our medical experts."

READ MORECritics Take Issue With Mayor De Blasio's Plan To Keep School In-Person Learning Safe, Request Remote Option

Since the summer, Brewer, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and most council members, including Councilman Robert Holden, have been calling for a remote learning option.

"We kind of saw this coming because this variant spreads quickly. I have a 2-year-old granddaughter that brought it home from daycare to her, to my daughter, who's eight and a half months pregnant. She got the COVID and then her husband got it, and that was very recently. So, this is a very serious variant," Holden said. "Let's not kid ourselves, it spreads. And now with cooler weather, we don't know what's going to happen. So you have to plan ahead. And, unfortunately, DOE didn't do that and the mayor didn't do it."

A spokesperson said grab-and-go meals can also be picked up from the school or another school near their house every day.

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