Mayor Bill de Blasio said the district would only allow 3-K, Pre-K and District 75 special education schools to return to classes on Monday

By Joelle Goldstein
September 17, 2020 02:20 PM
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A majority of students from New York City Public Schools won't be returning to in-person classes as scheduled until later this fall, according to city officials.

Just three days before classes were scheduled to begin in-person on Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced during a press conference on Thursday that N.Y.C. students in K-5 and K-8 schools will remain under remote learning until Sept. 29 due to coronavirus concerns, WCBS reported.

Students who are enrolled in the city's middle and high schools will also experience a delay, with de Blasio pushing their in-person instruction reopening back to Oct. 1.

However, 3-K, Pre-K and District 75 special education schools in the district — the largest in the nation — were given the clear to reopen on Monday as planned, according to de Blasio.

"We are doing this to make sure that all the standards we've set can be achieved," de Blasio said, vowing to "protect and preserve public education" because it has the power "to uplift every young person, knowing they will be our future."

The city's hybrid learning model was initially scheduled to begin on Sept. 10, but that date was later pushed to Sept. 21, according to WCBS.

During the press conference, De Blasio explained that the last-minute decision came after a three-hour conversation with union leaders who represent the city's principals, teachers, and other staffers, according to The New York Times.

There, "real concerns" were expressed about a teacher shortage and poor ventilation in older buildings, which some believed put educators' health at risk, the mayor said.

In recent days, some schools have lacked dozens of educators to teach classes, according to the NYT. The shortage was due to the fact that the city and teachers' union agreed that educators would not be required to teach both in-person and remotely, leaving schools with a responsibility to staff two sets of teachers for in-person and virtual learnings, the outlet reported.

"Yesterday morning, they reached out to me and they said they had real concerns about specific things that had to be done to make sure our schools could start effectively, start safely," de Blasio said during the press conference. "Although they acknowledged that some real progress has been made, not enough had been made and more had to be done to make sure that things would be as strong as they needed to be."

"I heard an honest concern [about the number of teachers], and it was just clear to me we didn’t have an honest enough number," he added.

In order to address those concerns, de Blasio said the city would be deploying 2,500 teachers — an addition to the 2,000 others that were already brought on earlier this week — from the help the Department of Education, the substitute teacher pool and adjunct professors, WCBS-TV reported.

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Michael Mulgrew, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, also confirmed that the city is working towards fixing the ventilation issues in certain schools and improving coronavirus testing, according to the outlet.

"Getting the right PPE in the right school settings is something that should be basically worked out by the beginning of next week," Mulgrew said, according to WCBS-TV. "So it’s really been constant monitoring and listening."

Despite the challenges of this school year, de Blasio promised to always value in-person education, as well as the health and safety of the city's educators and students.

"We all know how important it is in the midst of this crisis to have every tool available to help our children and we will always, for as long as we need, provide remote education at the highest quality possible," de Blasio said. "But we also know nothing replaces the in-person experience."

"This is a huge undertaking. It is difficult, it is challenging," he went on. "It's not the easy way, it's the hard way. But, it's the right way."

As of Thursday, there have been at least 451,078 cases and 32,662 deaths attributed to coronavirus in New York, according to the New York Times. In New York City, at least 243,314 cases and 23,762 deaths were reported, according to the Times.

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