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Principals Union Calls for City to Delay Reopening of In-Person Classes

Mayor Bill de Blasio toured Village Academy in Far Rockaway to observe how the school is preparing for a socially-distanced reopening on Wednesday. (Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)

Aug. 13, 2020 By Allie Griffin

New York City principals are calling on the city to delay the start of in-person classes, stating that schools are ill-prepared to reopen safely in the midst of the pandemic.

The union representing school principals, the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators (CSA), penned a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio Wednesday demanding that he delay the reopening of schools noting that more time is needed to properly implement a safety plan.

Schools are set to open Sept. 10 with a mix of in-person and remote learning.

“We are now less than one month away from the first day of school and still without sufficient answers to many of the important safety and instructional questions we’ve raised on behalf of school leaders and those they serve,” CSA President Mark Cannizzaro wrote in the letter.

“Given the lack of information and guidance available at this time, CSA believes that NYCDOE’s decision to open for in-person learning on September 10th is in disregard of the well-being of our school communities.”

Under de Blasio’s current plan, most students will attend class at their school buildings two to three times a week, and stay home for online learning the other days. Students also have the option to enroll purely in remote classes– and can opt to do so at any time.

The union said the city has failed to address many of its members’ crucial concerns and ignored appeals for more time to implement the new “highly complicated” coronavirus prevention protocols.

Cannizzaro said in-person learning should be postponed until the end of the September, with remote only beginning on the 10th.

“The slow rollout of guidance has forced us to once again address an unfortunate truth: schools will not be ready to open for in-person instruction on September 10th,” he wrote. “A more realistic, phased-in approach would instead welcome students for in-person learning toward the end of September, following a fully remote start to the year.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza toured Village Academy in Far Rockaway to observe how the school is preparing for a socially-distanced reopening on Wednesday. (Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)

The letter also lists a number of questions left unanswered by city officials on topics, such as the supply of nurses; repairs to ventilation systems; the availability of PPE, cleaning materials and other necessary supplies; adequate staffing numbers and guidance for children with special needs.

Today, de Blasio answered one of their questions. He promised that every school will have a certified nurse by the first day of school at a press briefing this morning.

However, the CSA said there’s still been too little planning for schools to open on time.

“Regrettably, the city started the planning process far too late for [school leaders] to have any faith or confidence that they can reopen their buildings on September 10th,” Cannizzaro said in the letter.

Teachers report in on Sept. 8, which Cannizzaro said allows “frighteningly little time for the preparation and training necessary for these unprecedented circumstances.”

The teachers union, United Federation of Teachers (UFT), said they agree that schools cannot start in-person classes until it is safe for students and staff.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew, asked how parents could comfortably send their children to school when their own principals don’t feel it’s safe.

“The principals union — whose members will be responsible for enforcing coronavirus safety protocols in the schools — now believes that school buildings will not be ready to open in September,” Mulgrew said. “Will any parents be willing to put their children in a school whose principal believes the building is not ready to open because it is not safe?”

However, de Blasio said there is still more time to address the concerns of principals and teachers during his morning briefing today.

“I really believe our schools are crucial for our kids, there is nothing that replaces in-person learning. Our schools coming back is part of how our whole city comes back and we’ve been planning for months,” de Blasio said.

“We have a whole month before school begins to address these concerns further,” he added.

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