NEW YORK CITY — An ambitious plan to reopen New York City’s classrooms next week has been delayed for most students amid growing concerns over staffing.
The city’s schools instead will undergo a phased reopening starting Sept. 21 with 3-K, pre-K and District 75 students, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced.
The remaining phases will progress on Sept. 29 with K-5 students and K-8 schools, he said. Schools will fully reopen for all grades Oct. 1 when remaining middle and high school students, secondary schools and transfer and adult education students return, he said.
This is the second time the city’s return to classrooms — an unprecedented undertaking for a district this size amid the coronavirus pandemic — has been delayed. De Blasio, facing multiple questions about the scheduling “whiplash,” said he believed public school parents would not be shocked when an issue as difficult as reopening schools has to be “adjusted from time to time.”
“Our parents — and I was one for a long time in our public schools — they’re a lot more pragmatic than you might imagine,” he said during the announcement Thursday.
De Blasio said the new delay was decided after educator union leaders approached him Wednesday with specific concerns about staffing.
The leaders — United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew and Council of School Supervisors and Administrators President Mark Cannizzaro — sat alongside de Blasio during the announcement.
Cannizzaro said the concerns boiled over when it became clear that some classrooms would not have teachers.
“To me, that was the big red flag,” he said.
But concerns over staffing aren’t a recent development.
All the while, de Blasio and schools Chancellor Richard Carranza painted rosy depictions of school reopening preparations on a near-daily basis.
The trio of de Blasio, Cannizzaro and Mulgrew presented a united front during the announcement.
Mulgrew acknowledged a “tough” two weeks for educators preparing for a complicated and unprecedented school year.
“It’s been constant monitoring and listening,” Mulgrew said. “This school system is bigger than most cities in the United States. Just think about making sure everything is right in every building inside of a city and that’s what we’re doing right now as a school system.”
The trio said the phased approach would be a way plug gaps in staffing so all students, whether learning in classrooms or from home, get adequate instruction.
Remote learning, which began this week, will continue as staff prepares for the new phases.
De Blasio also promised 2,500 more instructors going to schools, bringing the total of additional staff in the reopening to 4,500. Those instructors will be pulled from substitute teachers and graduate student pools, he said.
Cannizzaro said more staff could be needed on top of that as middle and high school students return.