City to hire 2,000 extra teachers to help with blended learning challenges

Group of children with face mask back at school after covid-19 quarantine and lockdown.
Photo via Getty Images

Hours after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his plans to hire 2,000 additional teachers to meet the demands of blended learning, head of the city’s principals union called the pledge “woefully short” and called for 10,000 more teachers to make the school year’s hybrid model possible. 

“Since the DOE first announced the irresponsible agreement they made regarding the instructional staffing of teachers, CSA has sounded the alarm that our city must somehow contend with the staffing crisis they have created,” Cannizzaro said in a statement. “Principals do not have enough money in their school budgets to hire who they need, and the city is facing a fiscal crisis.” 

The Department of Education suffered an even harsher financial blow during this year’s city budget negotiations after $ 707 million was slashed from the department’s budget. As a result, superintendents have had to tell too many principals that their staffing needs for the upcoming school year can’t be met, according to Cannizzaro. 

“There is now a week to go before students return to schools, and the city and DOE clearly have no comprehensive plan to fully staff our schools,” he added. 

The  city plans to hire an additional 2,000 teachers to provide extra classroom support for schools facing staffing shortages due to blended learning, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Monday. 

One of the many fears New York City parents and teachers have over this year’s blended learning, where students will take classes both in school and online, is how teachers are expected to instruct both in-person and remote students simultaneously. 

The Department of Education pledged over the summer to hire additional substitute teachers and certify new teachers to address the dilemma. The new cohort of educators will be a combination of Department of Education employees currently working in “other roles” and substitute teachers previously working at the city’s regional enrichment centers which closed on Sept.11.

 Regional Enrichment Centers opened in about 170 schools across the city to provide childcare to essential workers during the pandemic. About 2,500 DOE employees worked at the centers which served about 14,000 students. 

The announcement comes a week before students are set to return to in-person classes on Sept.21. After weeks of pressure from parents, teachers, and principals to delay the start of in-person classes and the threat of a job action from the city’s powerful teacher union the United Federation of Teachers, de Blasio gave in to demands. Initially, the school year was scheduled to start on Sept. 10. 

But the delay did not impact teachers and principals, who returned to buildings on Sept. 8 to plan for the school year. In the few days since there return, teachers have reported returning to unhygienic conditions and a number of positive COVID-19 cases. 

On Monday, de Blasio told reporters that 55 school staff members out 17,000 that received COVID-19 tests have tested positive for the virus since buildings reopened. Parents and teachers panicked last week when two DOE staffers self-reported testing positive for the virus a day after school buildings reopening for educators. The Justice caucus within the UFT, also known as MORE UFT, alleged that more teachers were testing positive for the virus while UFT President Michael Mulgrew claimed 16 union members had tested positive.

On Sept. 11, PS 811X, a district 75 school in the Bronx, became the first school to be shut down due to two staffers testing positive for the virus in seven days. Officials also confirmed that 19 school staffers tested positive during the first week of buildings reopening. 

“We have to remember that was a very small percentage of people who test positive for the coronavirus,” de Blasio told reporters. “It is a very temporary reality.” 

DOE officials announced a new hotline for school principals called “The Situation Room” to report positive cases of COVID-19 among staffers and students. Principals can call the  “Situation Room” Monday through Friday from 5:30 am to 9:30p.m and on Sundays from 11:00 am to 9:30 p.m. 

“It is deeply concerning that this support was not in place when thousands and thousands of educators reported to their buildings to start the school year,” said Cannizzaro.