The majority of the members of the New Haven Board of Education voted Monday to support Mayor Justin Elicker’s decision to use Career High School to house homeless people who come down with mild versions of Covid-19.
BOE member Darnell Goldson had submitted a resolution asking Elicker on Monday evening to reconsider that decision.
Only two other members of the board joined Goldson in that request: Tamiko Jackson-McArthur and student representative Lihame Arouna. The other members voted against the proposal
It was the board’s first virtual regularly schefuled meeting, held via Zoom to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Elicker’s community services administrator, Mehul Dalal, addressed the board at the meeting. He said that people confirmed to have Covid-19 have an 80 percent chance of being sent home to self-isolate because they have mild forms of the disease.
“For those experiencing homelessness, there is no home to go back to,” Dalal said. “People who already have the disease cannot transmit it to each other and can be grouped together.”
Emergency Operations Director Rick Fontana said the city chose Career as its regional emergency shelter in 2011 after Hurricane Irene, which helps the city get federal reimbursement for costs. The rationale was that Career was close to the Yale New Haven Hospital, YNHH’s St. Raphael Campus and major roads.
“It also had a gymnasium that was much better than any of the other schools that we identified during the walk-through in 2011,” Fontana said.
Hill alders and community management team members have come out in opposition to this use of Career, on the grounds that the neighborhood already hosts a disproportionate number of social services.
Goldson added that the Hill is an immigrant and African-American neighborhood.
“This vote doesn’t overturn Mayor Elicker’s authority to use this school. I want the public to know what my position is,” Goldson argued.
Parents filled the chat of the virtual meeting with worries that this use of Career would increase the chances of neighbors getting sick or their children becoming infected when school resumes.
Fontana responded that the schools plan to go above and beyond Center for Disease Control guidance on cleaning such facilities, including bringing in a professional crew to do the deep cleaning. He estimated the cleaning process would take a maximum of 72 hours.
“When this operation is completed, that school will be cleaner than it was in a long time,” Fontana said.
Superintendent Iline Tracey said that the decision of when to reopen schools is in the hands of the governor. The latest order from Gov. Ned Lamont is to keep schools closed through April 20.
A full statement from Elicker in response to the board discussion is below.
Choosing this location was a difficult decision, and I know some residents have concerns. Career High School is our designated shelter facility from our State and local emergency operations plans since 2005. The location was chosen due to its: centralized location to the City, the proximity to both our hospitals, it’s location on a major road, and it allows us to recover costs through reimbursement. The City is working with its partners to develop a comprehensive staffing plan that would include nurses, medical reserve corps, volunteers, support staff, and police for security. We will utilize this location until the COVID-19 pandemic is over. Before bringing the school back online, the City will disinfect and decontaminate the facility with the Center for Disease Control approved electrostatic disinfecting equipment and product. I appreciate all the hard work our emergency responders and medical professionals are doing amidst this global health crisis, and genuinely appreciate our residents’ cooperation as we serve those who are struggling the most.
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