This is our daily update following the reopening of NYC schools for Monday, September 28th, 2020.
Here's the latest:
- The union representing public school principals declared it has no confidence in Mayor Bill de Blasio.
- How will your child's K-5 experience look like? We break that down for you.
- Do you have a tip or story to share about schools reopening in NYC? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org (we can keep you anonymous)
The New York City Council's Education Committee has been forced to postpone its joint hearing on schools reopening that was scheduled for Tuesday morning after city officials did not respond to a subpoena compelling them to testify.
"Oversight is not optional," said Councilmember Mark Treyger, chair of the education committee, in a statement. "Last week, the New York City Council issued a subpoena to the Department of Education for data pertaining to remote learning attendance and access to live instruction -- data which was first requested on May 27th."
The education committee was expected to hold its hearing alongside the Council's health committee to explore what led the city to reopen schools for in-person learning during the pandemic.
"We have given the Administration six dates in early October, and a deadline to provide their availability," said Treyger. "If they do not agree to appear at a rescheduled hearing on or before October 15th then we will do everything in our Charter-given powers to compel their attendance."
Early this month, Treyger scheduled an emergency hearing to discuss a resolution declaring that public schools are not safe for reopening. That hearing did not require education or city officials to appear. Students, teachers, and health experts agreed at the hearing that schools were not safe to reopen.
In a statement to Gothamist, DOE spokesperson Miranda Barbot said the hearing date made no sense to begin with, since it's the first day of in-person school for elementary school students (the hearing was scheduled before the city shifted to a staggered reopening).
“The Chancellor has been working around the clock to safely and successfully reopen schools, and he will have his full attention on that all week," said Barbot.
Hunter Campus Public School Teachers Move Closer To Strike
11:30 a.m.: The union representing teachers at Hunter College Campus Schools overwhelmingly approved a safety strike authorization vote, declaring the two school buildings unsafe for faculty, staff, and students during the COVID-19 pandemic. The vote came two days before they're supposed to be reporting in for the first day of school.
The Professional Staff Congress, the teachers union representing 130 educators, met on Sunday to approve the strike authorization vote, which could happen today, less than 24 before some students are expected to return to classrooms.
The Hunter College Campus Schools, which are part of the city's public school system but are administered by CUNY, are comprised of an elementary school and a high school, which operate in the same building at East 94th Street and Park Avenue. Under normal conditions, all students would be housed in one building, but because of the high school's 1,200-student body, some have been assigned to go to the Silberman School of Social Work on Third Avenue and 119th Street. Elementary school students participating in the city's blended learning model are expected to be in school on Tuesday, September 29th. Students in grades 7-10 will report to school for in-person learning on October 1st, while grades 11 and 12 will be learning remotely only for the school year.
“What the teachers want is to be back in the classroom with the students they love—but in classrooms that are safe," Barbara Bowen, PSC president, said in a statement. "There is a long history of safety problems in this building. We hope everything has now been addressed, but teachers, parents and children need an inspection they can trust."
News on the strike authorization comes days after the PSC won a court battle requiring CUNY to install HEPA filter units at every classroom. PSC's leadership now wants an independent monitor, which CUNY has not approved, to review the safety of the building on Park Avenue, leading to the impasse.
"The HCCS building [on Park Avenue] was designed to resemble an armory," Bowen added in her statement Saturday. "It had severe ventilation problems even before the COVID pandemic. Hunter College claims that everything in the building has been fixed, but they haven't allowed an independent inspection. Every other public school building in NYC has allowed a safety inspection."
The Taylor Law -- which imposes harsh penalties on public sector employees who go on strike -- applies to the PSC, since its member teachers work in the public school system. For every day they strike, they lose two days pay. Bowen said it's a price members are willing to endure.
“They believe that their safety and the safety of their students is more important than anything else," Bowen said of the teachers.
The executive councils for PSC will meet with CUNY administrators in an attempt to avert a strike.
A spokesperson for CUNY did not immediately respond for comment.