COVID-19 News and Information
NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- In response to teachers and principals across New York City asking the education department to delay the start of in-person learning, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Thursday that every school building would have a certified nurse.
The union representing public school principals and other administrators on Wednesday wrote a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza asking for the delay past Sept. 10 for 1.1 million public school students.
In the letter, the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators said they still do not have sufficient answers to many concerns and teachers having less than 15 working days to prepare is not enough.
"The task before them is simply not possible to complete while simultaneously providing assurances of a safe and secure learning environment," the letter reads in part. "A more realistic, phased-in approach would instead welcome students for in-person learning toward the end of September, following a fully remote start to the year."
A spokesperson for the UFT, representing the city's public school teachers, says the union also believes the city DOE should delay the re-opening of school buildings.
Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, released the following statement:
"The UFT has said repeatedly that we cannot re-open schools unless they are safe for students and staff. The principals union - whose members will be responsible for enforcing coronavirus safety protocols in the schools - now believes that school buildings will not be ready to open in September. We need both safety and sanity in this crisis. Will any parents be willing to put their children in a school whose principal believes the building is not ready to open because it is not safe?"
On Thursday morning, hoping to quell some fears, Mayor de Blasio announced that every single public school building would have a certified nurse on staff, ready for the first day of school.
"Health + Hospitals came to the rescue here," the mayor said. "They are hiring them and placing them in the schools."
He added that H+H will get the contract nurses in place and they will get it done by the first day of school.
After touring a socially distanced middle school in Far Rockaway, Queens, on Wednesday, Mayor de Blasio said that "we've got a whole month," and "this ball game is far from over."
He added about his visit on Thursday that reopening is, "...about the devotion to kids, to our children, to what they need and that we need to help them through this crisis and beyond."
The mayor said the principal of that school Doris Lee said to him, "I feel like my children need me, and if there's a possibility to open safely, I want to take advantage of that possibility."
De Blasio and Carranza observed how custodians will use electrostatic sprayers every night and where kids wearing masks will sit in socially distanced rooms.
The mayor rejected delaying the start to the school year and said the city's infection rate is among the lowest in the nation, which he says makes it safe to open schools with these changes -- and a strict policy to shut it down again if the infection rate creeps up.
A spokesperson with the Department of Education released the following statement:
"We engage our union partners every day, and have been discussing policy details for weeks, including the first day of school. The CSA and UFT know we'll only open our doors if we meet the strictest standards set by any school district in the nation-and that protecting health and safety has always driven our work together. The vast majority of our students are currently planning for blended learning, and we know our dedicated school leaders and educators will show up for them like they have every year."
The city's re-opening plan calls for a mix of in-person and remote learning with students taking turns in classrooms when they return in the fall, but more than a quarter of students have decided to go with the all-remote option instead.
Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday said that 74%, more than 700,000 students, will be taking part in the city's blended learning plan. 26% of students will be taking part in remote-only digital learning. He said that is consistent with the survey families took earlier this summer.
About 15% of teachers have requested to be a remote teacher, and the city is working to approve them. The rest will take part in the in-person blended learning plan.
"Students will be learning five days a week no matter where they are," New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said.
New York City submitted a 109-page reopening plan to the state on Friday night. Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday acknowledged the supplemental submission and said it was being reviewed.
But, will the state approve of the plan for the 1,800 schools?
The plan calls for random temperature checks for students and teachers and a 14-day quarantine for anyone who tests positive.
That plan has looked exceedingly ambitious as other large school systems have backed away from in-person instruction in recent weeks. Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and Houston, among other places, all announced they would start the school year with students learning remotely.
Students and families will learn what their blended learning plan schedule will be starting next Monday, August 17th, and Chancellor Carranza said that everyone would have their schedules by the following week of August 24th.
And while Governor Cuomo has said all schools can safely hold in-person classes, some teachers are concerned about poor ventilation. Some buildings don't have HVAC systems and there are fears the virus could easily spread in those enclosed spaces.
Chancellor Carranza said that any classrooms deemed inadequate would not be used. Mayor Bill de Blasio also said that classrooms would have their windows open for ventilation whenever possible.
"We are going to be looking like hawks at the numbers and if the numbers of the positivity rate starts inching upwards and if it gets to 3 percent, we will remote learn for the entire system. New York City had real trouble with remote learning. They had trouble getting all kids access to iPads and the internet," Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
As for the remote learning aspect of the plan, the city purchased 321,000 iPads equipped with T-mobile data that do not require Wi-Fi.
At least one council member questioned why the city didn't buy cheaper, fully functioning laptops instead. One teacher said to Eyewitness News that he found the online digital learning software and programs difficult to use.
"We've learned a lot since March," Chancellor Carranza said. "There are multiple opportunities for teachers to use different platforms." He pointed to a "Teach Hub" on the city's DOE website.
The First Deputy Chancellor of Schools Donald Conyers said that the city is,"working with remote learning champions with borough city wide offices and dispatching them, so that if a school has an issue we will be able to tap in with the school and provide support."
More than one million public school students in New York City had their last day of in-class instruction on March 13, just as waves of sick people were beginning to hit city hospitals. All schools statewide were closed by March 18.
The outbreak, while reduced, is not over in New York. Around 10,000 New York City residents tested positive for the virus in July.
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