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NYC school reopening delayed amid deal between city, teachers union

Posted at 10:33 AM, Sep 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-07 10:24:40-04

NEW YORK CITY — New York City is delaying the start of the academic year as part of an agreement with the United Federation of Teachers union regarding coronavirus safety protocols, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday.

Teachers will begin the year with six days of preparations on Sept. 8, 9, 10, 11, 14 and 15. Students will then start the school year with all-remote instruction on Sept. 16, 17 and 18. School buildings will reopen and blended learning will begin on Sept. 21, the mayor said.

Students, teachers and staff were initially expected to return to classrooms on Sept. 10 to begin the year with blended learning, which involves a weekly mix of in-person and remote instruction.

De Blasio said the decision to delay the start of the school year was to give teachers more time to prepare as well as to ensure the health and safety of students and staff.

"We have a huge obligation," to get that part right, he said.

The development comes after de Blasio emphasized for months that the city’s 1.1 million public school students need to resume in-person instruction this fall after the coronavirus pandemic abruptly forced a thorny plunge into remote learning in March.

The teachers union, however, has been critical of the city's reopening plans. UFT president Michael Mulgrew had threatened a strike and the union was expected to hold a vote Tuesday afternoon on whether to authorize one.

The UFT had issued demands to ensure students and staff could return to school safely, including a mandatory COVID-19 testing program — a major sticking point for the union that was not addressed in the Department of Education's initial reopening plans.

As part of the deal announced Tuesday, teachers, students and staff will now be part of a mandatory monthly testing program, de Blasio said. Details about the program will be released at a later date, the mayor added.

Mulgrew, who joined the mayor during a coronavirus briefing Tuesday morning, said the city's revised and delayed reopening plan now has the stamp of approval from independent medical experts.

"We now can say that New York City's public school system has the most aggressive policies and greatest safeguards of any school system in the United States of America," he said.

When asked what he would say to parents who planned their lives around a Sept. 10 restart to school, the mayor said he understands them because “I’m a parent.”

For students enrolled in remote learning, the change does not affect them, but for parents who signed their children up for blended learning, “it does mean a few more days where they’re going to have to figure out some kind of accommodation,” he added.

The city was juggling many factors and came to an agreement with educators that this plan was “the right way to get things done,” de Blasio said.

This story comprises reporting from The Associated Press.

Editor's note: The date teachers first report to school buildings has been corrected.