City Reaches Deal to Push Back Start of School Year Over COVID-19 Safety Concerns

Mayor Bill de Blasio and UFT President Michael Mulgrew announce the deal between the teachers’ union and the City and the school reopening plan. Image Credit: Mayor’s Office

Students will start their first week online and then return to blended learning on September 21nd. On September 1, 2020, Mayor Bill de Blasio and DOE Chancellor Richard Carranza announced a deal with the teacher’s union to push back the start of the 2020 – 2021 school year to provide schools more time to implement COVID-19 safety plans and upgrades. The deal ends talks of a teachers’ strike out of fear that NYC schools were reopening too quickly without enough time to properly develop safety plans, scheduling and other needs. 

The school year was originally set to start on September 10th, with a hybrid model of students returning to both in person and online instruction on a rotation determined by each individual school. Under the new agreement, teachers still returned to classrooms on September 8th to begin set up, training, and professional development. On September 16th, students will begin their school year online until September 21st, when schools will reopen for in person instruction. The additional time will allow teachers to prepare both physical and virtual classrooms. The week of remote learning will include discussions of health and safety protocols as well as wellness and social emotional health while navigating this school year. 

As part of the plan to protect school communities, teachers, DOE school-based staff and students will have prioritized access to COVID-19 testing at 34 cites citywide, with results provided within 24-48 hours. Starting October 1st, schools must submit a monthly random sample of their students (from 10 – 20 percent) for COVID-19 testing. Families will have to sign a consent form and will be notified if their child was selected. 

Mayor de Blasio stated, “This is a great day for every public school student in New York City. We face a return to school unlike any in our city’s history, but New Yorkers have made it possible because of their extraordinary work fighting back COVID-19. Our agreement puts the health and safety of our 1.1 million students, teachers, and school staff above everything else. We couldn’t be more excited to get our young people back to the classrooms where they learn best.”

DOE Chancellor Carranza stated, “Reopening school during an ongoing pandemic is one of the most complex challenges any government anywhere has had to figure out in modern history, and New York City is best positioned to do so. So many things about this year will be new, but the fundamentals remain the same: the majority of our students plan to return to buildings, students will learn best in person with a caring teacher as often as possible, and we will lead with health and safety every step of the way.”

UFT President Michael Mulgrew stated, “New York City will now have the most aggressive policies and the strongest safeguards of any school system in the nation.” 

Council Speaker Corey Johnson supported the delay but criticized the Administration for waiting so long. “The Mayor’s decision to delay school re-openings to September 21st is a step in the right direction. Nothing is more important than safety, and I am glad we are prioritizing the health of students, teachers and school staff. Sadly, this common-sense measure should have been announced sooner to better allow school staff and families to plan properly for the academic year, something I and many of my colleagues urged the Administration to do in August. Instead, Mayor de Blasio dragged his feet while parents and educators fretted about how to make the impossible work, waiting until a week before school is scheduled to provide clarity for our school community. We live in uncertain times. Everyone is on edge. This type of indecision only fuels confusion.”

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


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.