Mayor Eric Adams said Thursday he is willing to consider a remote learning option for the nation's largest school system.
"I'm willing to sit down and entertain with the UFT if there is a way to do a temporary remote option," Adams told reporters during an unrelated press conference in Lower Manhattan.
It’s a slight change in tune from the mayor, who said he is open to creating a remote learning option for public school students despite his message that the safest place for students amid the ongoing wave of COVID infections is inside schools.
"The safest place is schools and I'm going to push that," Adams said. "But we have to be honest that there is a substantial number of children that for whatever reason parents are not bringing them school, I have to make sure children are educated."
Pressure to create a remote option has been mounting for days.
This week, students at Brooklyn Technical High School staged a walkout to protest coronavirus policies and call for a remote option.
Meanwhile, thousands of students and teachers are testing positive for the virus, leading to high rates of absenteeism. Since the winter break, attendance rates have not moved above 76% — that means a quarter of a million students are going without instruction.
Schools Chancellor David Banks met with the Chancellor's Parent Advisory on Thursday. During the meeting, Banks said the city is working out the specific details with the union in order to offer a remote option soon.
“My goal is to create an option that will take us at the very least to the end of the school year," Banks said. "If I could figure out a way to do a remote option starting tomorrow I would, It’s not quite as simple as that because you have to negotiate this stuff with the unions.”
The United Federation of Teachers, which has also pushed for schools to remain open, appeared to take issue with Banks' comments, saying the union is in full support of a remote option.
“Clearly the chancellor has been misinformed about the UFT’s position," UFT president Michael Mulgrew said in a statement. “We have long called for an instructionally sound remote option and have been speaking directly to the mayor about creating one, a program that will work for students.”
Offering a remote option would create major logistical challenges in order to ensure there are enough teachers to oversee students in classrooms and students learning remotely. It's unclear how the city would do that without facing a staffing crisis.