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Here's the latest:
Less than a week before the official first day of school, the head of the New York City's teachers union is once again casting doubt on the ability of the city to reopen public schools amid concerns about staffing, testing delays, and building safety.
"We did not meet the goal of getting all the schools ready by any means," said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said during a press briefing on Monday afternoon. "We still have a lot of work to do."
He added: "If you asked me if we are ready to open today, I would say we are not."
Mayor Bill de Blasio earlier this month asserted that 90% of school buildings were ready "right now" and that no building that was deemed unsafe would be cleared to reopen.
But Mulgrew on Monday cited a host of issues, from staffing shortages, uncertain attendance, and general concerns about the safety of buildings. He also pointed to the city's two to three day lag on testing results, a delay he described as "unacceptable."
So far, at least 55 DOE staffers had tested positive for the virus out of nearly 17,000 individuals tested.
On Monday, the mayor announced the creation of a COVID-19 "situation room" to handle testing and contact tracing in public schools as well as the additional hiring of 2,000 teachers.
Time is running out. While online orientation is set to begin on Wednesday, New York City is scheduled to reopen school buildings on Monday, September 21st, six months after they were shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. Back on September 1st, de Blasio and the UFT struck a deal to delay the reopening to give the city and schools more time to prepare, averting the threat of a teachers strike.
Some teachers argued that a few extra weeks were not sufficient to address all the challenges posed by an unprecedented public health crisis. On Monday, teachers at six schools across the city staged a "work out," in which they protested the safety of buildings by working outside.
During his press conference, Mulgrew threw into question the number of students in the city's roughly 1 million public school system expected to show up next week, saying that the union has received reports that the number of students opting for remote-only instruction has been going up.
The city has not confirmed the latest numbers, Mulgrew said.
Over the past five weeks, the number of students signing up for remotely only learning has steadily climbed, suggesting reluctance by parents to at least start the school year under the city's blended or hybrid plan. On Monday, the New York City Department of Education reported that 42% of families have indicated that they will keep their children at home for remote-only learning.
Some education experts, like Brooklyn City Councilmember Mark Treyger, who heads the Council's education committee, said he expected many parents were waiting until the last minute to decide. Parents may opt into remote-only instruction at any point during the school year.
In response to Mulgrew's comments, Miranda Barbot, a spokesperson for the Department of Education, noted the city's hiring of 2,000 educators as a step in addressing staffing needs as well as the New York City being the "safest major city to reopen schools."
"These unprecedented circumstances are exactly why we pushed back the first day for students—to give staff more time to work together and plan for the year ahead," she added. "We continue to work closely with our labor partners to address any concerns they have."