Every student going to school for blended learning will be taught by an adult in a classroom this fall, Mayor Bill de Blasio declared Tuesday.
But parents and educators said this was news to them.
“Our kids are going to go into classrooms staffed by adults, ready to teach them in person,” de Blasio said at his press briefing, a day after 3K and Pre-K students, and District 75 students, began returning to school under the DOE’s staggered reopening plan.
But some parents and teachers said this isn’t possible under the new protocols of blended learning and with the social distancing mandates as set by the state.
Under an agreement with the United Federation of Teachers union, teachers are not required to teach both in-person and remote classes simultaneously. With 45 percent of the school system’s 1.1 million students now opting to enroll in remote-only classes, this means there will be nearly twice as many classes that will need teachers. Meanwhile, about 25 percent of the DOE’s teaching staff have received medical accommodations to work remotely, further reducing the number of people available to be physically present in classrooms.
Many schools have cobbled together plans that will have blended learning students sitting in a school classroom, but watching streamed instruction while supervised by a teacher who may not be licensed in that particular subject matter. It’s a detail of his ambitious blended learning plan that de Blasio should know, teachers pointed out.
“I think it's impossible that he doesn't know unless he hasn't read any of the plans of any of the schools,” said one high school English teacher in Queens, who didn’t want to give his name because he’s not authorized to speak to the media. “I've no idea how he would expect that.”
What the mayor is promising is just not possible, said another teacher who works at a Bronx elementary school and declined to give his name for the same reason. He said he feels constantly “gaslit” by de Blasio’s daily briefings.
“Finding out directives of how our career is going to change via media briefings is absurd,” said the teacher, who usually teaches science cluster classes but will now be teaching third grade classes this year. “The fact that we have to tune into the press conferences... to see what next left turns are going to be pulled is really tough.”
One Manhattan parent said she knows the plans at her school, Mott Hall 2, suggest that the mayor’s comments are “total crap.”
"At Mott Hall all classes will be taught remotely. It's live instruction, but through video," said parent Agnes Zakrzewski. The school’s goal will be to have two staff members per room supervising students and offering support, but the teaching will come via video.
Even with the promises of additional staff, Zakrzewski said she doesn't believe there will be enough to have a teacher teaching live in every classroom. "You can't physically be in two places at the same time," she pointed out.
Catherine Khella, who teaches health and science at a high school in Brooklyn, said most of her school’s teachers are working remotely -- in fact, all but one teacher of the ninth grade faculty is teaching remotely.
“If and when (high school) in-person learning actually does begin, it's not going to really make that much of a difference for my students and that's a huge issue, because kids are going to go into the building and I'm at home, my co-teachers are at home, they're just gonna sign in and do (work) in the classroom,” said Khella, who is also a union delegate for the United Federation of Teachers. “And there's no one else who teaches my subjects, who would be available to teach my class in person.”
Khella added, “I don't know that ...many students are going to continue to go into the building...when they realize that they just are doing the same thing that they would have done at home.”
The start of the school year itself has changed multiple times, after delays pushed it from September 10th to September 21st and then to a staggered start. Next week, students in K-5 and K-8 schools will resume in-person classes on September 29th. Middle, high school and adult education and transfer school students begin blended learning October 1st. Remote learning started for everyone Monday.
The Bronx elementary teacher said the constant changes have been difficult for his school community to track, after school reopening had been delayed twice. “We actually had students coming in on Monday and we essentially were having to turn them away,” he said.
The DOE said in a statement that de Blasio “was referring to the rule, not the exception” and that schools have flexibility to plan as they see fit.
With Jessica Gould