MEDINA — The union representing teachers at Orleans-Niagara BOCES has filed a complaint with the state Department of Labor alleging safety and health hazards associated with widespread non-compliance with the Board of Cooperative Educational Services’ reopening plan.
Complaints are related to classroom sizes, the wearing of face coverings, school cleaning and personal protective equipment, according to the complaint, which was filed Thursday.
“The recognized hazards range from improper physical distancing of students and staff, lack of and/or improper facial coverings, failure to clean and disinfect high touch areas, the failure to conduct mandatory screenings and PPE shortages to name a few,” Deborah Hillburn, president of the Orleans-Niagara BOCES Association, wrote in the complaint. “The rampant disregard of COVID-19 protocols mandated by O/N BOCES’ re-opening plan and mandated by the Department of Health puts BOCESTA members, staff and students at an unreasonably high risk of contracting COVID-19.
Dr. Clark J. Godshall, senior district superintendent for Orleans/Niagara BOCES, said in a statement that Orleans-Niagara BOCES follows guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the New York State Education Department, the New York state and local health departments, and the district’s medical advisors for COVID-19 protocols.
Godshall, in the statement, said Orleans-Niagara has all of the necessary PPE and spent an additional $330,000 to ensure that its sites are adequately supplied. He said the district reconfigured instructional class space to adhere to social distance and facial mask requirements.
Godshall said BOCES is following mandates New York issued for schools to reopen including ensuring individuals maintain physical distancing, wearing face coverings, and required health screenings.
“Union input was received and impact bargaining was conducted,” Godshall said in a press release. “The BOCES has responded reasonably to bargaining demands from the teachers’ union. NYSUT has targeted the O/N BOCES with inaccurate claims and we look forward to the regulatory agencies confirming that we are in full compliance with safety procedures”.
A call for comment for further information regarding Hillburn’s allegations was not returned prior to press time.