New York, NY – Fellow elected officials, the CSA, the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE) and the UFT are blasting Mayor Bill de Blasio on all fronts regarding his school reopening strategy.
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams lambasted the mayor on Thursday in a statement where he called de Blasio’s Safe School Strategy a “failure.”
“The mayor and chancellor got an assignment five months ago: to develop and implement a strategy for schools in the fall that would be educationally sound, scientifically supported, and centered on the safety of students and staff,” said William’s statement. “Failure to deliver on that charge, while holding to the same deadline, has put teachers, administrators, students and parents in a near-impossible situation.”
CSA President Mark Cannizzaro found the mayor’s recently released Outdoor School Initiative to be too late to implement as the Sept. 10 deadline for K-to-12 hybrid in-person/digital learning fast approaches.
“Countless health experts have suggested that outdoor learning may be helpful in limiting exposure to COVID-19, and school leaders will take advantage of all opportunities that help keep their community safe,” said Cannizzaro in a statement Monday. “However, once again, the City and DOE have made decisions, rolled out guidance and announced a deadline far too late and haphazardly for school leaders to develop and implement a thoughtful and well-constructed plan.”
Mayor de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza released a four-point Outdoor Learning Initiative on Aug. 24 and gave the city’s more than 700 schools an Aug. 28 deadline to sign up for the program in order to get a response for their institution within a week, or otherwise they will have to wait longer for help in implementing the agenda.
“The short-sighted guidance on outdoor learning also lacks detail, raising serious concerns around safety and security,” Cannizzaro added. “Furthermore, without funding, this plan will exacerbate already existing disparities.”
The mayor’s plan would have had physical education (PE), dance, theater, chorus and band classes outside whenever possible; conduct additional academic classes where space/logistics permit if the school has an interest in doing so; principals would have to fill out a survey to give the DOE its outdoor needs and request for additional spaces; and the program would be open to public, charter, and private schools, as well as Learning Bridges, according the Department of Education.
Schools in the 27 neighborhoods disproportionately impacted by COVID and schools with no outdoor space on site would receive priority, according to the DOE.
“Though the idea of outdoor learning has real merit, the city’s plan will not be implemented nearly as well as it could have been if the Mayor had simply given principals the time and support they need,” Cannizzaro said. “As a result, we reiterate our call for a delay of in-person learning so that we can implement a safe and successful learning plan for our students.”
On a press conference Thursday with the AQE, a pro-education coalition that helps to fight for quality education for students of color, low-income and immigrant students, former special education teacher Matt Gonzales articulated that he is not here for aggressively forcing children back to school during a pandemic under the mayor’s plan.
“Just because the [rate of positivity for COVID] in certain parts of New York City has declined, which is a wonderful testament to all the labor and work we put in doesn’t mean we are out of the woods here,” said Gonzales. “What we know from looking at the impact and the patterns of harm caused by COVID-19 is that the communities who have been historically marginalized, segregated, made vulnerable, undermined and disinvested in by the city and the state, which are black and brown communities and low-income communities – those communities have been hit hardest by COVID-19.”
The concept of sending one million kids back to school when some had overcrowded schools, inadequate learning resources and few cleaning materials to begin with before budget cuts and the pandemic makes no sense, according to Gonzales.
“We are asking our educators, our school leaders and our young people to put themselves in harms way when we spent the entire summer not addressing the needs of what we needed to do to improve remote learning,” said Gonzales. “People are calling the city’s design a plan, it is no such thing as a plan. It is an approach.”
Gonzales is already seeing privileged families choosing to put their children in “pandemic pods” where they allocate resources with other privileged families to get qualified teachers to teach virtual classes or teach in-person at their homes for $250 a week or $70,000 to $80,000 a year as reported by CNN.
Members of the United Federation of Teachers will be in talks on Saturday to plan a strike against the DOE for “doubling down on a dangerous and reckless reopening plan.”
Nearly 150 people have affirmed they will join a virtual call to make plans to strike and an additional 214 people have expressed interest in being a part of the meeting on Aug. 29.