New York City Department of Education
nyc return

New York City agrees to delay opening of schools by a week

Sept. 1, 2020
City officials reached agreement with unions to push back the Sept. 10 date and give teachers and principals more time to prepare for students' return and take precautions to combat Covid-19.

The start of the school year in New York City will be delayed after city officials reached a deal with union leaders who had argued that it wasn’t safe to reopen buildings on Sept. 10 as had been planned.

Chalkbeat New York reports that the revised schedule calls for all students to have a “transition and orientation” period on Sept. 16. Regular coursework will not resume for students in person or remotely until school buildings reopen on Sept. 21. Teachers are scheduled to report to buildings on Sept. 8, as planned.

New York City had been the lone holdout among the nation’s largest school systems for an on-time return to in-person learning. But in recent days, the teachers union has threatened a strike and hundreds of principals have been saying it would be impossible to prepare to reopen the city’s 1,800 schools while still facing the threat of the coronavirus.

For months, New York City Mayor de Blasio has held firm on reopening school buildings on time, arguing that fully virtual learning could be disastrous for the city’s students, about 73% of whom come from low-income families.

“Nothing — nothing replaces in-person learning,” de Blasio emphasized during a news conference on Tuesday. He says the city’s new safety protocols represent “the highest standard anywhere in the world.”

Officials did not immediately say whether the delay will mean that students and teachers have to make up additional days throughout the school year.

Pushing back the return date gives teachers and principals more time to prepare for an unprecedented school year, which will require educators to overhaul everything from how children enter school buildings to how to teach young learners to read via a computer screen. Until the delay was put into place, teachers and principals were slated to have just two days together before reopening buildings.

The agreement between the city and labor leaders includes random, monthly testing of staff and students for Covid-19. Officials said 10% to 20% of a school’s population could be randomly tested based on its size.

The deal does not appear to include mandatory testing of students and staff before school buildings reopen, something union officials had been demanding.

Once random testing begins on Oct. 1, any student who declines to be tested will be switched to fully virtual instruction, union officials say, and staff members who refuse will be placed on unpaid leave.

About 37% of students have so far opted out of returning to school buildings, and families are allowed to opt out of in-person classes any time, making it difficult for principals to plan. City officials have declined to say how many teachers have so far received health accommodations to work remotely, but previously estimated that up to 20% might do so.

Even though school buildings are expected to open for students on Sept. 21, they could shut down if coronavirus infection rates surge above 3%, based on a seven-day rolling average, the mayor has said. The rates are currently about 1.3% citywide.

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