NEW YORK - Mayor Bill de Blasio delayed the reopening of New York City classrooms just nine days before students were slated to return to schools.
Blended learning students will not return to classrooms for in-person learning until September 21 and remote learning will not begin until September 16, the mayor suddenly announced.
What You Need To Know
- First day of classes will be all remote, on Sept. 16; in-person classes begin Sept. 21
- Teachers return Sept. 8 to prepare for school year
- Teachers' union had demanded a delay to start of school year, was threatening a strike
"We have a huge obligation to get the health and safety part right," de Blasio said Tuesday morning. "These challenges require a thoughtful approach."
Teachers will return on September 8 to prepare for a school year made infinitely more complex by the novel coronavirus pandemic, which means blended learning parents will go without about seven says of childcare.
"I do empathize with parents but it's a very modest change," de Blasio said. "I think what matters here is that we were judging a lot of important factors."
His announcement came after months of conflict between the Department of Education (UFT) and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) over plans to protect students, educators and staff from COVID-19.
The union threatened to strike over teachers' concerns, among them that mandatory testing was not part of the DOE's plan.
The new plan, which will be presented Tuesday to the union's Executive Board and Delegate Assembly, addresses testing concerns with the addition of random monthly COVID-19 testing in every city school, said UFT President Michael Mulgrew.
Under the agreement, every school will administer free COVID-19 tests to between 10 and 20 of students and adults with results available within 48 hours, according to the UFT.
Students whose parents do not consent to testing will be moved to remote learning and teachers who refuse testing will be placed on unpaid leave.
"What we're doing is saying the things that are most important, we have that," Mulgrew said. "Then we're going a step beyond that."
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson applauded the move to delay reopening schools but criticized the de Blasio administration for reaching a decision just days before the previously set start date.
"Sadly, this common-sense measure should have been announced sooner to better allow school staff and families to plan properly for the academic year," Johnson said. “Instead, Mayor de Blasio dragged his feet while parents and educators fretted about how to make the impossible work."
DOE Chancellor Richard Carranza championed the collaboration between union and administration, but was quick to take a shot at critic City Councilman Mark Treyger, who Monday night raised concerns about PPE funding.
"Let me clear, we don't do policy by Twitter," Carranza said. "We're giving schools absolute guidance on what they can do."
While de Blasio has stood firm on his plan to reopen classrooms, physical and virtual, for about 1.1 million New York City public school students, this is not the first time he has backtracked on specifics.
After weeks of criticizing outdoor learning plans, de Blasio announced last week that schools could request permission to take their classrooms outside.
De Blasio also garnered criticism for his decision to launch ventilation inspections in more than 1,700 public schools over a 10-day period.
Concerns remain over staffing issues after de Blasio told New Yorkers blended learning students would be taught by separate remote learning teachers and that New York Health + Hospitals would hire enough nurses to man every building.
But Council of School Supervisors and Administrators President Mark Cannizzaro promised teachers solutions would come with the return to the classroom.
"This is not going to be perfect, but it's going to be the best possible we can put forward," Cannizzaro said. "The answers are in the room but we need to get the people in the room."
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Main story image: AP file photo
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