City officials announced on Tuesday that in-person classes will be pushed back until Monday, Sept. 21.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza, UFT President Michael Mulgrew, CSA President Mark Cannizzaro, and DC 37 Executive Director Henry A. Garrido today announced an agreement to begin in-person learning on September 21st. Teachers will report to buildings on September 8th as originally scheduled and will have dedicated time for training, professional development, and readiness to collaborate and prepare for blended and remote learning. Beginning September 16th, teachers will begin to engage students in preparations and orientations to help them acclimate to the new school year.
"This is a great day for every public school student in New York City,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We face a return to school unlike any in our city's history, but New Yorkers have made it possible because of their extraordinary work fighting back COVID-19. Our agreement puts the health and safety of our 1.1 million students, teachers, and school staff above everything else. We couldn't be more excited to get our young people back to the classrooms where they learn best."
The announcement came this morning, the same day the United Teachers Federation was threatening to hold a strike authorization vote if the city did not delay the reopening of school buildings.
The agreement, reached between the de Blasio administration, the Department of Education, along with the United Federation of Teachers and the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, averted a potential job action over the safety of public schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Reopening school during an ongoing pandemic is one of the most complex challenges any government anywhere has had to figure out in modern history, and New York City is best positioned to do so,” said Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza. “So many things about this year will be new, but the fundamentals remain the same: the majority of our students plan to return to buildings, students will learn best in person with a caring teacher as often as possible, and we will lead with health and safety every step of the way.”
"New York City will now have the most aggressive policies and the strongest safeguards of any school system in the nation,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew.
Beginning immediately, prioritized access to testing will be available to students, teachers, and DOE school-based staff at 34 sites across the city. These sites will give priority to all DOE workers so they can quickly be tested, and provide results within 24-48 hours. Beginning October 1st and recurring each month, it will be mandatory for schools to test a random 10-20% sample of their students participating in blended learning and on-site staff population. Families will be asked to sign a consent form at the start of the year for their child to participate at random, and be notified ahead of time if their child has been selected for the month.
In a typical school year, teachers return to school a few days before students to prepare for the start of the year, and we are extending that preparation time for educators to prepare their physical and virtual rooms for a new year of learning. This time will allow teachers and all school staffs to set up students for success in both full-time remote and blended models. School leaders and educators will be fully trained on health and safety protocols and have ample time to coordinate with each other to ensure they can provide educational continuity between remote and in-person days for blended learning.
On September 8th, educators return to school, and will collaborate to prepare for the school year. On September 16th , schools will begin engaging students in learning and orienting them to the new school year prior to the first in-person day on September 21st. They will use this remote launch to engage students in health and safety procedures, and talk to students about connectivity for remote learning, wellness and social emotional health heading into an unprecedented school year, and to ensure students are ready to learn. An important focus of this orientation period will be on the social and emotional well-being of students and families and provide an opportunity for deeper understanding of the ways this unprecedented school year will work.
Health and safety continues to lead all reopening plans, and the City will not reopen schools if the citywide infection rate exceeds 3 percent. The citywide infection rate is currently 1.3%.
"We have to make sure that if there is a problem at a school, if there's someone with symptoms, that the procedures are in place. That there is a nurse there, we have an isolation room," Mulgrew said. "That everyone understands their role, that each school will now have a COVID building response team, that the school will act as a team."
Additionally, the UFT said it would be dispatching 100 union staffers to check school ventilation systems, desk spacing and other details at school buildings.
A growing number of major school districts in other states, like New Jersey are opting to start the school year completely virtual amid ongoing safety concerns.