New York City’s students will have one teacher for the days they learn in classrooms and another for days they learn remotely, under the new “blended learning” curriculum unveiled by Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“Students are going to get support every day,” de Blasio said during a press briefing on Thursday, just two weeks before schools are set to reopen on Sept. 10. “What was important was to determine a good working model to work together to maximize what we can do for our kids.”
De Blasio said the curriculum was developed as he reached an agreement with the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), the powerful union that represents nearly 200,000 public school employees. The UFT has been outspoken in opposition to the mayor’s reopening plans, pushing for schools to stay closed until its list of demands—notably screening and testing of every person who enters a school building—were met for each of the city’s 1,700 schools.
“This agreement really respects our professionals, our educators, it respects their need for time to plan,” he said, adding that blended learning will address the teachers’ safety concerns while providing additional clarity to principals.
According to Linda Chen, the chief academic officer of the education department, schools are expected 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.
Chen said she was not exactly clear how schools would provide all the additional teachers to meet the demands, but suggested that anyone who possesses a teaching certificate but doesn’t typically work in a classroom could be called upon to fill the staffing shortages.
“We’re dealing with a mathematical problem that we’re dealing with day to day,” said Chen during the press briefing. “Staffing has been and will continue to be something that we are monitoring closely. And we are concerned about. Absolutely the math would indicate to you that is going to be a variable we need to solve for.”
The Council of Schools Supervisors and Administrators (CSA), the union representing principals and other school administrators, blasted de Blasio’s blended learning plan, saying it is “indefensible” for schools to reopen on Sept. 10 while adhering to the new curriculum.
“Regrettably, the DOE has now created a potential staffing crisis with just two weeks to go before the first day of school,” the CSA said in a statement. “We applaud your administration for its focus on science throughout this pandemic. We ask that you also focus on the math.”