Charter schools sue NYC seeking weekly COVID-19 testing

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A group of Big Apple charter schools and families say they have been unfairly denied coronavirus testing despite the fact that the city conducts these tests weekly in its other public schools, according to new court documents.

The Department of Education and the city, “defiantly announc[ed] that they will not provide COVID-19 screening tests to resident children who attend charter schools on the same terms they provide to students in the city’s traditional public schools, regardless of any request,” alleges a lawsuit filed by five charter schools and parents of 10 families at the schools.

This is despite a city statute that requires the DOE, upon request, to provide health screening tests to children attending public schools, the Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit from Monday claims.

In late November, Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered that in-school testing be conducted on 20 percent of teachers and students weekly.

While charter schools are outside of the DOE’s public school program, they are run with public funding and should still be entitled to the same testing regimen that allows students to have at least some in-person learning, the court papers charge.

Instead, many of the charter schools have been forced to have a full remote curriculum because of their lack of access to these tests, the court documents — from charter schools including Zeta, Renaissance, Classical, Public Prep Academies and Ascend —claim.

The plaintiffs want a judge to find that the DOE “failed to perform a duty” and that its stance on this issue is “arbitrary and capricious,” the court papers show.

The suit also seeks to force the DOE to begin performing the tests in the charter schools “in the same manner as are made available for children attending the city’s traditional public schools,” the court documents say.

By contrast, a group of teachers and parents at city public schools last week filed a suit to stop the weekly COVID-19 testing until the DOE can prove their test specimens won’t be used for any DNA database.

“Testing is a crucial part of keeping our schools safe, and the State makes free test kits available for schools that are subject to its testing requirements,” DOE spokesperson Danielle Filson said in a statement.

“There is no legal requirement for the DOE to conduct our random sample testing program in charter schools, however all charter school staff and students can get tested for free at any of the City’s H+H testing sites.”

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