(The Center Square) – Less than 10 days before New York City schools were set to open, Mayor Bill de Blasio and union officials announced on Tuesday the in-school start date would be pushed back to Sept. 21.
It comes as the labor leaders threatened to pursue legal action and possibly even strike if the city tried to reopen schools on Sept. 10. The mayor and labor leaders praised the agreement the sides reached.
“We take it very seriously when we’re talking to their parents, that we want them to know we’re doing everything in our power to keep their children safe,” United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said. “But we also want to make sure that we’re doing everything in our power as a city to keep the people who are doing that phenomenal work in our schools every day safe also.”
According to the plan, teachers will still report to their schools next Tuesday, but they’ll now get professional development, training and more time to prepare for the hybrid-learning environment the city’s planning to use. Families have the choice of having their children use remote learning five days a week or sending them to school for in-person instruction for part of the week and going remotely for the rest of the week.
Online learning will start Sept. 16, with in-class instruction starting five days later.
The agreement also makes testing immediately available to students, faculty and school-based staff at 34 sites across the city. Those testing centers can process results within 48 hours. Starting next month, every school will need to randomly test between 10 to 20 percent of its blended learning students and on-site faculty and staff each month. Families will have the chance to sign a consent form and will receive advance notification if their child or children are selected.
“Our agreement puts the health and safety of our 1.1 million students, teachers, and school staff above everything else,” de Blasio said. “We couldn’t be more excited to get our young people back to the classrooms where they learn best.”
De Blasio has been a vocal proponent for reopening schools for nearly two months. However, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been tapping the brakes throughout the process. Cuomo made the more than 700 school districts statewide submit plans to the state health and education leaders for approval, and his administration panned the city’s first submission, which amounted to just 32 pages, as an outline instead of a plan.
The city eventually submitted more detailed information and received state approval to proceed, but Cuomo, as recently as Monday, kept harping for city leaders to get buy-in from the teachers and parents, who he said still had qualms about the plan.
“We can be in the schools alone if the parents and the teachers decide they’re not coming back,” Cuomo said. “I’ve been saying for weeks, include the teachers and the parents in the plan development. Because if the teachers and the parents are not convinced, you’ve accomplished nothing.”
This article was originally published on New York City pushes back school reopening date by 11 days