New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday that a deal has been reached with unions representing educators in the city to delay the reopening of public schools until September 21, CBS New York reports. Schools had originally been set to reopen on September 10.
"I am pleased to report that we have come to an agreement to move forward," de Blasio said. Students will learn five days a week with a choice of fully remote learning or a blended in-person and remote learning plan.
The United Federation of Teachers has been calling on the city to take more steps to ensure safety before the school year begins. Tuesday's deal to delay the start of classes was announced ahead of a planned union meeting to consider authorizing a potential strike. According to the UFT, New York is the only big-city school system in the U.S. that plans to reopen for in-person teaching in September.
De Blasio said Tuesday that "preparation days" from September 10-15 will allow educators and staff to get ready "under these unprecedented circumstances."
"Starting on the the 16th of September, we will have a three-day transitional period, only three days. For those three days, instruction will begin remotely for all students," the mayor said. "And then on September 21st, Monday, the school buildings open, full strength, we go to blended learning as has been described previously. We have students coming in to the buildings. What would've happened on September 10th now happens on September 21st."
The mayor said that "nothing, nothing replaces in-person learning," and that the city will make COVID testing available every month in every school.
The UFT had been calling for school reopening to be delayed until the city can meet a checklist of safety standards. A major sticking point was the union's demand for mandatory testing for teachers and students.
Another concern is proper ventilation. The city says 88% of school buildings have already been inspected for safe air quality.
The Department of Education has also approved more than 200 outdoor learning plans, and 324,000 iPads have been passed out to students who need them.
The uncertainties left many parents joining teachers in a call to push back the start of school.
"I think it's a bad idea, because they're not really prepared," parent GiGi Gonzalez told CBS New York.
"The city is on top of it, but the people are not together," parent Wanda Crockett said.
Some were also trying to figure out how they will get their kids to school when there's still no bus plan in place.
"They need to come up with something before school starts," said parent Ibrahim Diop.
The last UFT strike in the city came during a fiscal crisis in 1975, and lasted a week.