When it comes to reopening schools safely and communicating with parents and teachers, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Richard Carranza both receive a collective “F” on their report cards.
The mayor announced that instead of all schools reopening with the blended learning model on September 21, only 3-K, Pre-K and District 75 students will go back to school. The rest of the school system will slowly return over the next week, with middle and high school students returning on October 1.
This delay comes after de Blasio pushed back the start of the school year initially by 11 days, after the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and Council of School Supervisors and Administrators (CSA) raised an array of concerns about health and safety.
As of Friday, more than 60 staff members within the Department of Education have tested positive for COVID-19 after returning to school buildings earlier in the month. Although that’s just a small sliver of the larger system, those positive cases prompted the temporary closures of those schools.
Teachers have expressed worry that their classrooms lack proper ventilation; some barely have a window. Underfunded schools and old buildings often don’t even have the proper cleaning supplies, let alone PPE, to get by.
Then there’s the issue of staffing. The principals union has said schools need a total of 10,000 new teachers to fill in the gaps at middle and high schools. The DOE plans to bring on an additional 4,500 new teachers, from CUNY graduate students to substitute teachers.
The teacher shortage caused the DOE to go back on its promise to provide students with live online instruction on the days they are remote.
Worst of all, teachers, parents and students are all finding out about these changes and delays secondhand. The sudden announcements don’t give families enough time to plan out daycare plans, work schedules and other considerations with their children.
Nearly all stakeholders have expressed frustration with the mayor and chancellor over their decision-making.
While it’s noble that the leaders of the largest public school system in the country are trying to give kids an in-person education this year, while others have gone with the safer option of fully remote learning, they have utterly and spectacularly failed.
We hope the mayor and chancellor will get a passing grade by their next report card, for the sake of the city’s public school students.