By Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech
Just over 700,000 out of 1.1 million public school students will take classes in school buildings for at least part of the week this fall semester, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Monday. Meanwhile, 264,000, or 26%, students will only attend remote classes.
About 85% of the teaching workforce, or 66,000 instructors, will teach in a blended model while 15 % of teachers have requested reasonable accommodations to work from home, according to Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza.
The announcement comes three days after Governor Andrew Cuomo gave New York City schools the go-ahead to reopen this fall.
New York City is the only major city planning for in-person classes at all this fall after the city of Chicago reversed course last week and announced that the nation’s third-largest school district would rely only on remote learning for the upcoming semester a few weeks after the country’s second-largest school district, the Los Angeles Unified School District, chose go fully remote for the fall.
Parents and teachers alike have raised numerous concerns over the hurdles the city will have to overcome in order to reopen schools. Last week, the United Teachers Federation said that de Blasio’s schools reopening plan, which it helped create, does not adequately protect teachers and students from potentially spreading or contracting the novel coronavirus. The union launched a petition with a list of safety requests including a nurse in every school and upgrades to all ventilation systems.
Teachers at Manhattan’s M.S. 324 worry that their students will be put in danger this fall given that the school’s ventilation system hasn’t worked in years. According to a 2019 building inspection report, over a dozen of the building’s exhaust fans do not work.
Mayor de Blasio said on Monday that classrooms with ventilation systems do not work will not be used and will be “segmented off” until the Department of Education believes that it is usable. Instructors and family members have also worried over a lack of guidance on class schedule. Parents and students will start receiving class schedules beginning on Monday, Aug. 17, three weeks before the school year is scheduled to begin.
While the number of new cases rises in other parts of the country, the mayor continues to boast New York City’s relatively low coronavirus cases. On Aug. 8, 53 people were admitted to a New York City public hospital with possible COVID-19 symptoms, the city reported 285 people currently in public hospital Intensive Care Units with COVID-19 complications and 1% of people receiving coronavirus tests tested positive for the virus.
“Now, look around the country, we see a challenging situation,” de Blasio said. The country reported over 5 million cases of the virus on Sunday with health officials linking recent spikes in the virus to heavily populated states like California, Texas, Florida and other southern states. Nearly 100,000 new cases of the virus reported in the last two weeks of July were in children, according to a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and Children’s Hospital Association.
“I hope and pray that their situation improves soon but we are not those places, New York City is different.”