Promising Fix to Staff Shortage, NYC Again Delays Restart of Schools

Teachers and students participate in a Sept. 2 outdoor learning demonstration to display methods schools can use to continue on-site education during the coronavirus pandemic, at P.S. 15 in Red Hook, Brooklyn. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

MANHATTAN (CN) — In-person learning for New York City public schools will be pushed back again amid safety concerns and staffing issues, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday.

While all students were previously set to start in-person learning on Monday, only students in 3-k, pre-k and District 75, which educates special needs students, will stick to that schedule. Students in K-5 and K-8 now have their start date pushed back to Sept. 29, and older students in middle schools and high schools will now start Oct. 1.

Remote learning will start Monday for the students who had their in-person start dates pushed back.

De Blasio was joined by union leaders at the Thursday press conference, noting it was conversations with them that resulted in the last-minute change.

“They acknowledged progress has been made but more had to be done to make sure that things would be as strong as they needed to be,” de Blasio said.

Recognizing that a main concern for a Monday start date was a lack of staff, de Blasio said the city will be adding an additional 2,500 educators to schools along with the 2,000 he had previously announced.

Mark Cannizarro, president of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, was thankful for the delay in order to properly staff the schools.

“Nothing is more important to school leaders than protecting the health, safety, and well-being of their students and staff,” said Cannizzaro in a press release. “Although we are extremely disappointed that the start of in-person learning must be delayed again, it is simply not safe to open buildings to children without a teacher for every class.”

Schools Chancellor Carranza praised the patience of educators and families in these uncertain times. 

“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,” said Carranza in a press release.

Screenshot of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announcing a delay to the reopening of in-person learning on Thursday. (Image via Courthouse News)

Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, stressed that the delay is necessary to ensure the safety of students and staff.

“The safety of students and staff is always the first priority,” said Mulgrew in a press release. “Our buildings must be ready, and testing and tracing procedures must be in place. A phased reopening — and making sure, despite budget challenges, that we have enough staff — can help ensure that safety.”

After being closed since March due to the pandemic, educators returned to schools Sept. 8 to prepare their classrooms. Since then, 56 city schools have confirmed cases of Covid-19, and a school in Brooklyn has been shut down, according to the Department of Education.

All schools will be shut down if the city infection rate goes above 3%, which has stayed below that threshold since June.

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