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Yes, this is terrible. But, what's wrong with a Classroom volunteer vacuuming the rug simply for the kids' safety?

The city's youngest students are curling up on filthy "reading rugs" that have become disgusting havens for skin flakes, insect parts, rodent droppings and other unhealthy gunk, the teachers union charged yesterday.
The rugs - found in most classrooms from prekindergarten to second grade - are not properly cleaned, United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said.

"These rugs that were supposedly for comfort have become a contamination zone," Weingarten said, following a contract bargaining session with the city.

The union discovered the stomach-turning carpet contents after having samples taken and tested from nine city schools: Public Schools 75 and 194 in Manhattan; PS 7 and PS 89 in Queens; PS 78, PS 119 and PS1 in the Bronx and PS 229 and PS3 in Brooklyn.

While many rugs harbored everything from molds to mouse droppings to dust, perhaps the most disturbing results came from PS 89 in Queens, where a rug had to be removed after children complained of rashes.

"The carpet had 15% fibrous glass, which is the likely source of the skin rash," Olmsted Environmental Services of Garrison, in Putnam County, reported.

Most of the schools inspected either had no vacuums or custodians who do not consider vacuuming rugs to be part of their jobs, the study found. A spokesman for the custodians union, which has vigorously fought efforts to privatize school cleanups, could not be reached.

Teachers and the city have clashed over the mandatory rugs since the start of the school year, with many teachers seeing them as the biggest symbol of Department of Education micromanagement. The latest rug flap came amid increasingly tense contract talks.

Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott called the UFT's complaints "unfortunate and baffling" because there are already plans to clean the rugs while students are on winter break next week.

"Obviously, Randi feels the need to constantly be in the press talking about different issues," Walcott said. "This may be part of that need. In all honesty, this issue has been addressed by the staffs."

Originally published on February 13, 2004


Ed dept. called on carpets





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