In-Person Teaching Delayed 11 Days in New York City, Averting Strike

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks to reporters on Aug. 19 after visiting New Bridges Elementary School in Brooklyn to observe pandemic-related safety procedures. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, FIle)

MANHATTAN (CN) — Under pressure from teachers threatening to strike, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday morning that the start of the school year will be delayed over a week.

Closed since March due to Covid-19, schools were slated to reopen on September 10, but de Blasio said in-person learning won’t happen until September 21.

“What we’ve agreed to is to make sure that the health measures are in place, to make sure there is time for the appropriate preparation for our educators,” de Blasio said at a press conference.

Staff will return to schools the day after Labor Day, and teachers will return September 10 to prepare their classrooms. In the meantime, the 1.1 million public school students will start remote learning on September 16 for what de Blasio calls a “transitional period.”

“We have a huge obligation to get the health and safety part right,” de Blasio announced. 

Accusing the city of rushing into opening without having property safety measures in place for students and teachers, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew had threatened to strike, which is illegal under state law.

Mulgrew joined de Blasio at the press conference Monday, however, saying he is confident that this new plan will be safer for all involved.

“We now can say that New York City’s public school system has the most aggressive policies and greatest safeguards of any school system in the United States of America,” Mulgrew said at the briefing.

Part of those safety measures include monthly mandatory medical monitoring in all schools. Each month a certain number of students will be tested for free with parental consent. Further, there will be a nurse in each school, and there will always be a 30-day supply of PPE. 

Council of School Supervisors and Administrators President Mark Cannizzaro said the delay is necessary for the safety of everyone coming in and out of schools.

“With so much to care for, there’s always a need for more time in order to plan things effectively and appropriately,” said Cannizzaro at the briefing.

Schools Chancellor Richard Caranzza also praised the new plan and asked everyone to have “flexibility and patience” during this time.

“This will strengthen and improve and make it so we have the safest start to the school year,” Carranza said at the press conference.

Families still have the option to opt for remote learning for the school year, and iPads have been provided for free to 324,000 students.

Classrooms have also been undergoing ventilation testing to make sure there is enough air flow, and outdoor learning is encouraged whenever possible 

Other major school systems such as Houston, Miami and Los Angeles have opted to start the school year with all students learning remotely. 

The city has stayed below a 3% Covid-19 infection rate since early June despite being hit hard in the early months of the pandemic.

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