Mayor Bill de Blasio told New York City public school teachers Thursday to put aside fears about contracting the novel coronavirus and to “rise up” to the occasion by returning to school buildings for in-person classes this fall during a press conference on Thursday.
“Answer the call, our transit workers did, our first responders did, our health care workers did … Show up and serve people. That’s what our constituents depend on, that’s what parents and kids believe we are here to do and certainly taxpayers as well,” de Blasio told reporters. “It’s a moment to be there for families.”
Teachers who have a higher risk of developing serious health complications as a result of contracting the novel coronavirus are allowed to request a reasonable accommodation to instruct remotely this fall. So far, 15 % of New York City public school teachers have submitted requests to instruct from home, according to the most Department of Education data.
But as the de Blasio administration continues to leave questions on school reopening unanswered, such as how to keep children from removing required face masks or how to prevent overcrowding at school entrances and exits, teachers are growing increasingly fearful of returning to school buildings.
De Blasio began the press conference touting the efforts of Kevin Bowles, a Crown Heights school principal, and a colleague, Maya Wilson, for putting in extra hours for the greater good of New York City students by running a city regional enrichment center over the summer. The story that exemplified the mayor and chancellor’s attitudes that a “can do” attitude is all teachers need to adopt in order to make the upcoming blended model school year work.
“A lot of these members of the team wouldn’t do this, the chose to do this,” de Blasio recounted Wilson saying about her fellow instructors. When asked why she gave up her summer to work at the enrichment center she responded “because our families are worth it,” according to de Blasio.
“Public servants are public servants,” said de Blasio. ” They chose the profession because they love kids.”
The morning after dozens of parents, teachers, students and city elected officials called for a delay to in-person learning during an hours-long Panel for Educational Policy meeting, de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza pledged to provide detailed breakdowns of what is being done at every school to prepare for reopening.
De Blasio spokesperson Bill Neidhardt posted a list called the “Back to School Pledge” to Twitter after the announcement outlining the same promises the mayor’s office has made for weeks. This is what the document says:
PPE and cleaning supplies will be supplied to all schools, and DOE will have a 30-day supply on hand at all times—with a hotline for principals to call for immediate resupply for their schools
- There will be a full-time nurse in every public school building
- Any school building or room found to have inadequate ventilation will not be used by students or staff
- Students and staff will practice physical distancing in all school buildings
- Students and staff will wear face coverings throughout the school day; if they do not have them, they will be provided for free
- Students will remain in pods for as much of the day as possible
- We will place hand sanitizer in every classroom
- City-run testing sites will prioritize free COVID testing and expedited results for school staff; free testing is also available to all students, families, and New Yorkers citywide
- We are encouraging all DOE employees to be tested monthly
- NYC Department of Health and Test + Trace Corps will immediately investigate confirmed cases to prevent spread of the virus
- Schools will communicate with all students and families when there are confirmed cases in schools
- When necessary, classrooms or school buildings will temporarily close to maintain safety of school communities and prevent spread of the virus
- School buildings will close if the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests in New York City is 3% or more using a 7-day average—the most aggressive threshold in the nation
NYC Public Schools will be cleaned and disinfected, day and night:
- All school buildings will be disinfected overnight, every night
- High-touch zones will be cleaned multiple times throughout each day
- Electrostatic disinfectors will clean surfaces daily with zero physical contact
Students will be learning five days a week, no matter what:
- Whether in-person or online, students will study in supportive environments with rigorous academic standards
- Remote students will interact with their teachers every day
- Student schedules—both remote and in-person—will be preset and consistent to allow families to plan
- Academic instruction will integrate social-emotional learning and trauma-informed care to support students holistically
- Teachers will have time each day to engage one-on-one with students and families