While MORE supports the idea of a responsible, phased-in, equitable reopening plan with a remote start to the year, the Mayor’s latest announcement is not it. And while UFT leadership takes credit for this short delay, we know that this wouldn’t have happened without MORE and rank-and-file UFT members in the streets this entire past week independent of UFT leadership. We also know that unfortunately, this is yet another superficial, top-down fix that does little to make the Mayor’s plan safer or more equitable.
As educators, we know that children and families need stability and clear communication from the Department of Education. The announcement today continues to erode trust that educators and families have in the Department of Education to keep our school communities safe.
This 7-9 day delay will just cause more chaos and stress for working families and school staff without addressing the many underlying problems with the Mayor’s reopening plan. D75 schools have been reporting unsafe working and learning conditions all week, yet they are slated to reopen as planned on the 21st without any additional resources or support for busing, safety or instruction. Other grade levels are delayed by just 7-9 days, without any indication that the numerous safety concerns raised by parents and staff around COVID testing, ventilation, lunch or PPE supplies will be addressed in that time, nor that the city will address major issues with remote learning. And although we welcome the idea of hiring more staff, at best, this seems like a temporary solution since the staff being hired are not certified pedagogues and it’s not clear that the funding for these staff exists or is permanent.
Unless this short delay is used to ensure mandatory testing for all students and building workers, ensure that all buildings are upgraded with the necessary safety measures and have enough staff, ensure that every building has a social worker, counselor and nurse, ensure staff teaching remotely can work from home, and ensure that all children have WiFi and working devices, it will be a waste of energy and impose needless stress on families.
We urge the city and the UFT to end this roller coaster and announce full remote school at least until January.
As part of this, the city must expand REC centers so that every family who needs childcare can have it five days a week(instead of just one or two) and so that our students with disabilities can have in person services if they choose to. Mayor de Blasio has stated there will only be 30,000 childcare spots in its Learning Bridges Program which will be fully rolled out by December: this is unacceptable in a city with 1.1 million students. This is particularly essential for our housing insecure students who may not have access to WiFi where they are living. As part of remote learning, the city should also provide support for every school to use outdoor space and other spaces to supplement remote learning with opportunities for socialization. The time we gain from a remote start should be used to plan a community-driven phased-in reopening that follows the science and prioritizes the students that need the most support– including students with IEPs, ELLs and our youngest learners. It should also be used to expand testing capacity across the city so that we can mandate testing for 100% of students and staff, upgrade all school buildings and get feedback from stakeholders on an ultimate equitable, phased in plan.
The Mayor has ignored and gaslit stakeholders for months and now we’re seeing the results: a chaotic unsafe reopening that doesn’t serve the needs of students or families.