‘Just brutal’: 50 NYC school and Education Dept. employees have died from COVID-19
The coronavirus has taken an unbearable toll among the city’s Education Department, killing 50 people — a grim statistic released Monday after weeks of mounting pressure to release the sobering data.
The COVID-19 deaths included 22 paraprofessionals, 21 teachers, two administrators, two central office staffers, a facilities employee, a guidance counselor and a school food worker.
“This is painful news for too many of our communities—each number represents a life, a member of one our schools or offices, and the pain their loved ones are experiencing is unimaginable,” said schools Chancellor Richard Carranza.
“We will be there to support our students and staff in any way they need, including remote crisis and grief counseling each day. We mourn these losses and will not forget the impact each person had on our DOE family,” he added.
For weeks, educators and lawmakers have pressed for information on the virus’s toll in the city school system. Some teachers and union representatives blasted city and state officials for waiting until March 15 to shutter schools, and for asking teachers to report to school buildings the following week to plan for remote learning.
Other city agencies, like the NYPD and FDNY, have been providing regular updates on a devastating death county among their ranks.
The United Federation of Teachers has been reading a list of staffers who have died from the virus at its weekly meetings, and compiling remembrances online.
Last week, UFT President Michael Mulgrew read off 26 names. On Monday night, he added another 20.
“Every one of these stats is a tragedy,” Mulgrew said.
Both city Education Department staffers and union employees are working with schools to provide grief counseling to help both children and staff deal with the unimaginable loss. The task has been a “huge challenge,” said Mulgrew.
“We’ve never had this many deaths in this period of time,” Mulgrew said.
The death toll at the Education Department hit particularly hard for the city’s paraprofessionals — staffers who assist teachers and work one-on-one with students with disabilities.
Though teachers outnumber paraprofessionals in city schools by more than 3-to-1, the virus ravished the ranks of paraprofessionals, killing 22; the virus took the lives of 21 teachers.
Union officials said Monday they’re looking into the high numbers for paraprofessionals who succumbed to the virus, and wouldn’t speculate on the disparity.
Some lawmakers said the toll shows schools remained open too long.
“This is just brutal,” tweeted City Council Member Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn) Monday afternoon. “Painfully clear with 20/20 hindsight that we should have closed schools sooner.”