Public Advocates calls for further delay of school reopenings in New York City

New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams says the city cannot combat racial segregation without studying it first.  Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams is calling for a longer delay to the start of in-person classes hours after city officials announced that the first day of school would be pushed back to Sept. 21 to grant teachers and principals more time to plan for blended learning. 

Public school classes were originally scheduled to start this year on Sept. 10 but after weeks of parents, teachers and principals calling on the city to delay reopening along with the threat of a job action from the United Teachers Federation, whose members include 75,000 teachers Mayor de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carranza gave into demands. 

The 11-day-long delay also comes on the day that Mayor de Blasio is set to meet with the Municipal Labor Committee, which includes the UFT, to discuss pressuring Albany to all the city to borrow $5 billion to fill a roughly $9 billion budget gap for this fiscal year and the next, according to Politico.  The push to increase in the city’s borrowing authority has gained support recently and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson along with UFT President Micheal Mulgrew wrote an op-ed in its support last week. 

“Re-opening strategies need to be deliberate and methodical, guided by science and framed in equity to minimize risk. I’ve implored the administration to delay the reopening of school buildings in service of that goal, but I am deeply concerned that eleven days is not nearly enough to meet the monumental task before the city, and that the administration will fall victim to the same logistical failures and logical fallacies as it did previously, just with a new date,” Williams said in a statement. 
Parents, teachers, principals and other school staff still have unanswered questions in regard to school reopening like the status of promised shipments of personal protective equipment and new air filtration systems. Instructors are still not sure to enforce health and safety rules such and unsure on how to punish students for not wearing masks. Parents when city bus contracts will be finalized and if drivers will be given adequate PPE.  
“We need more time for preparation and less focus on a looming, unrealistic and unsafe deadline amid deep budget uncertainty. Our approach must be intentional, not incidental – implementing the most effective system of remote learning possible while working to restore in-person learning in phases, beginning with those who have the greatest need,” the statement continues. 
“If we face the same shortcomings on September 21 that we do today, nothing will have changed but the calendar, and further delay will be needed to put in place critical safety infrastructure before gradually phasing in re-opening. The Mayor needs to listen to the students, parents, teachers, scientists and school staff, who are imploring him to prioritize safety, not a schedule.”