New York City’s public schools will reopen more than 10 days later than originally planned, as part of the latest deal between city hall and powerful unions representing teachers and principals.
The only major school system in the United States that has opted to offer in-person classes this fall, the NYC Public Schools, was set to reopen school buildings next week on Sept. 10. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Tuesday that the reopening date has been pushed back to Sept. 21 in an effort to meet the unions’ demands and prevent a potential strike.
“A lot was on the line here to work through, but I’m pleased to report that we’ve come to an agreement to move forward, to address real concerns that have been raised about how to do things the right way,” de Blasio, a Democrat, said during his daily press briefing.
School staff are expected to use Sept. 10-15 as “preparation days,” according to de Blasio. The following two days will serve as a “transitional period” during which only online learning will take place. Schools will bring students back on Sept. 21 for “blended learning,” with most students attending classes in person for two or three days each week and learning remotely for the rest of the week.
Under the blended learning plan, schools need to have three different groups of teachers—one teaching students at school, another teaching the same students when they’re remote, and a third group teaching students who wish to take their classes entirely online. De Blasio said last week that he would deploy thousands of extra teachers to meet the staffing shortage.
“What would have happened on Sept. 10 will now happen on Sept. 21,” de Blasio said. He also promised to make monthly COVID-19 testing available to all schools, in which a “random” sample of 10 to 20 percent of students and staff members will be tested for the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
Michael Mulgrew, the president of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), joined de Blasio for the announcement. The UFT, which represents nearly 200,000 NYC Public Schools employees, is reportedly moving toward a strike, following months of threats that the organization would take action to halt the reopening until its many demands—notably screening and testing of every person who enters a school building—were met for each of the city’s 1,700 schools.
“We now can say that New York City Public School Systems has the most aggressive policies and greatest safeguards of any school system in the United States of America,” Mulgrew said.
The teachers union had said it may vote as early as Tuesday to authorize a potential strike over safety concerns. The delegates will meet Tuesday afternoon.