Watch CBS News

Mayor De Blasio Pledges A Nurse In Every School, But UFT President Says He'll Fight Reopening If Stringent Safety Isn't Met

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is defending his decision to reopen schools next month, following concerns from principals and teachers who say it's too soon to be safe.

The mayor said Thursday public schools will have nurses on hand when students return to campus this fall.

"Every single New York City public school building will have a certified nurse," he announced. "We're taking every precaution, but there's tremendous value to having a health professional present."

De Blasio said NYC Health + Hospitals is working to make that a reality by Sept. 10.

"Parents and educators will be relieved, and the 70,000 students who have gone without will now have access to a medical professional if and when school buildings reopen," United Federation of Teachers union said in a statement.

WATCH: Mayor De Blasio Discusses Fall School Reopening 

Upper West Side mother Nina Maclean told CBS2's John Dias she doesn't just want to send her two kids back to school. She feels she needs to for their development.

"He's special needs and he cannot do the remote learning at all. So these past few months for him have been a disaster," she said. "She can handle the remote learning, but needs the socialization."

But for every parent who's looking forward to fall, it seems another isn't or is torn.

"We have very mixed emotions around it," mother Rachel Levine said.


On Wednesday, the principals union said schools are nowhere near ready to safely reopen in September.

On Thursday, UFT President Michael Mulgrew drew a line in the sand, telling CBS2's Marcia Kramer he will do everything in his power to prevent schools that don't meet stringent safety standards from reopening next month -- even if it means going to court.

"We do not want our schools, or the lack of safety in reopening of the schools, to be the cause of re-contaminating our city again. We're not gonna have it and everyone's gotta wrap their head around it. We will stand. We'll do what we need to do to make sure that that does not happen," Mulgrew said.

Mulgrew said he has a team of 100 people going to each one of the city schools to determine readiness, but so far he said the picture is bleak. Kramer asked him how confident he is that schools will be ready to reopen on Sept. 10.

"Twenty-five percent. I just don't believe at this moment because we started so late and everything is being rushed and people don't understand it's not just about delivering PPE and cleaning products. Every school has to customize every piece of their safety plan to their school. They have to train their staff," Mulgrew said.

Mulgrew is putting the blame on de Blasio, who, he said, didn't focus on the problem of school reopening until last month. His message?

"We've yet to see you actually get your job done. So let's see you do your job," he said.

Both the mayor and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza have said they're in daily contact with the unions about reopening.

"I think the most important point is that I really believe our schools are crucial for our kids. There is nothing that replaces in-person learning. Our schools coming back is part of how our whole city comes back," said de Blasio. "If I don't think it's safe, if the chancellor doesn't think it's safe, if our health leadership doesn't think it's safe, we'll be the ones to shut it down. That's why we set the 3% goal."

The Department of Education sent CBS2 the following statement:

"We engage our union partners every day, and have been discussing policy details for weeks, including the first day of school. The CSA and UFT know we'll only open our doors if we meet the strictest standards set by any school district in the nation -- and that protecting health and safety has always driven our work together. The vast majority of our students are currently planning for blended learning, and we know our dedicated school leaders and educators will show up for them like they have every year."

Kramer asked the mayor what happens if teachers don't show up for the first day.

"People have a job to do, so there's not a question in my mind. People are going to show up because it's the right thing to do for our kids," he replied.

He compared educators to health care workers and first responders who "found a way" during the height of the pandemic.

Some teachers have told CBS2 they wont show up on opening day. Bushwick special ed math and science teacher Carlos Olivieri said he has fears.

"Absolutely. You know, I have a mother that I take care of at home," Olivieri said. "I do have the very fear of becoming infected and possibly passing that along to people that are dear to me."

You can get the latest news, sports and weather on our brand new CBS New York app. Download here.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.