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'The Kids Were Freezing': NYC Public School Teachers Instructed To Keep Windows Open To Comply With COVID Guidelines Even As Temperatures Drop

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A big change is coming for New York City schools after an unseasonably warm November.

Classrooms have been comfortable with their windows open, but winter is right around the corner.

Nine-year-old Mila Fanbrough wore an oversized scarf to keep warm inside the Earth School on the Lower East Side. She and her mom are worried about how much worse it's going to be this winter as some schools are forced to keep windows open for COVID-19 precautions.

"It's really cold sometimes, so it's kind of hard to focus," the fifth grader said.

"They were sending out emails suggesting that we send the kids with lots of layers and coats and fingerless gloves," parent Anna Longo said.


Teacher Jia Lee says on a rainy day two weeks ago, the temperature in her classroom at the Earth School dipped into the low 50s.

Without an HVAC system or HEPA purifier, she says opening windows is her only option.

Jia Lee, a teacher at the Earth School on the Lower East Side, says her students sat next to heaters to stay warm, since the DOE recommends keeping windows open to comply with COVID safety guidelines. (Credit: Jia Lee)

"The kids were freezing. We're freezing. We can't focus. Rain water was coming in," Lee told CBS2's Hazel Sanchez.

Some of Lee's students sat up against the heaters to stay warm. She says many teachers have filed complaints with the Department of Education.

"The message to us was keep the windows open but blast the heat and bundle up," Lee said. "That's just not a responsible response."

RELATED STORY: NYC Public School Parents Have Until Nov. 15 To Switch Kids From All Remote Classes To Blended Learning

The DOE says it's working with school custodians and principals to ensure every classroom is operating at the appropriate temperature.

The department purchased 30,000 HEPA purifiers for classrooms that need them so they can keep windows closed.

"Mother Nature is generally giving us a little bit of time here to work with, so we'll have time to get them in place," Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

"One of the kids had wrapped themselves around in their yoga mat because they were so cold," teacher Corinthia Mirasol-Spath said.

The DOE gave Mirasol-Spath two air purifiers for her classroom at the Neighborhood School on the Lower East Side, but she's not convinced that's effective.

"We could potentially close our windows, again, don't totally understand the science of that," she said.

"We're all very anxious," Lee said.

RELATED STORY: Gov. Cuomo Announces New Testing Plan For New York Schools In COVID-19 Hot Spots

Until the deep freeze arrives, no one knows if the safety measures are enough.

The DOE says it does plan to buy more HEPA purifiers as they are updated on what is needed.


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