City Announces Abrupt Changes to Return of In-Person Instruction at Schools

Mayor Bill de Blasio. Image credit: CityLand

The delay comes less than a week before all students were scheduled to return to in-person instruction. On September 17, 2020, Mayor Bill de Blasio, DOE Chancellor Richard Carranza, United Federation of Teachers (UFT) President Michael Mulgrew and Council of School Supervisors and Administrators (CSA) President Mark Cannizzaro announced a delay in the return to in-person instruction at NYC public schools. This is the second delay in the return to in-person instruction. Schools will physically reopen for students in a phased plan over a couple of weeks.

New York City, the largest public school system in the nation, has been set on following a hybrid model with students rotating between in-person and remote instruction on a schedule determined by their individual school. The school year was originally set to begin on September 10th, but earlier this month, the City had delayed the start of the school year after reaching an agreement with the teachers’ union to allow more time to implement plans for a hybrid education model and other COVID safety precautions. For CityLand’s prior coverage of the school reopening plan, click here.

The 2020-2021 school year officially started for students on September 16th will all-remote instruction, as determined in the agreement with the teachers’ union. However, on the second day of the school year, the City announced that the implementation of in-person instruction would need to be delayed longer. Students in 3-K, Pre-K and District 75 programs will return to in-person learning on September 21st, K-5 and K-8 schools on September 29th, and middle school, high school and other educational programs will resume in-person on October 1st.

The City also announced a total of 4,500 new additional teaching staff and educators to help with staffing needs at 3-K, Pre-K, District 75, K-5 and K-8 schools. Additional staffing for middle schools and high schools are to be announced after further discussions with schools to establish their needs.

To explain the cause of the sudden change, Mayor de Blasio described how school union leadership had reached out to him the morning prior, and “that although they acknowledged that some real progress had been made that not enough had been made and more had to be done to make sure that things would be as strong as they needed to be.” Discussions were held between City and union leadership yesterday and the new schedule was developed.

Mayor de Blasio stated, “For months, teachers, principals and school staff have been working hard to make sure our students have the education they deserve while putting health and safety first. Today, we are announcing the latest in our larger plan to re-open schools the right way and give working-class families the in-person education they’ve asked us to deliver.”

Chancellor Carranza stated, “Our students, staff and families have demonstrated tremendous resilience over the last six months, and we’re going to continue to build on all the work we’ve done as we move forward. We are giving our schools more staff, more time, and more support to have the strongest possible start to the most unprecedented school year.”

UFT President Mulgrew stated, “The safety of our students and staff is always first priority. Our buildings must be ready, and testing and tracing procedures must be in place. A phased re-opening – and making sure, despite budget challenges, that we have enough staff – can help ensure that safety.”

Many elected officials expressed their frustration with the Mayor and the DOE, mentioning how the changing dates and lack of instruction make it difficult for teachers and families to plan.

Council Speaker Corey Johnson shared the new schedule over Twitter and stated, “This is yet another massive disruption and inconvenience for students, parents/guardians, teachers, and school staff, to say the least – and it was avoidable. The conversation about reopening schools should have started as soon as they closed. Now NYers are paying the price. It was crucial to have stakeholders involved in these conversations from the start, but instead, we’ve failed them.”

Council Member Mark Treyger, Chair of the Education Committee, expressed concern with the lack of communication about the sudden changes, tweeting “One principal I spoke with learned of today’s news during [a] staff meeting where she fielded complaints of many unknowns & constantly changing guidance with no support. When given today’s news, she checked with [the] superintendent who didn’t know either. Schools deserve better than this.”

Council Member Joe Borelli even called for the resignation of Chancellor Carranza, stating in a letter to the Chancellor that “every aspect of our school system’s shut down and re-opening has been mismanaged, last-minute, unclear, and willy-nilly since March; and today’s news makes it clear there is no light at the end of the tunnel for parents.”

CityLand continues to cover the City’s reopening plan and response to the COVID-19 pandemic. For continuing coverage, click here.

By: Veronica Rose (Veronica is the CityLaw fellow and New York Law School graduate, Class of 2018.)


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