NEW YORK (AP) - New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio held firm Thursday to plans to reopen the nation's largest public school system within a month, despite public concerns from teachers, administrators, and nurses that it's too soon to ensure the safe return of students.
The city is aiming for a hybrid reopening Sept. 10, with most of the 1.1 million students spending two or three days a week in physical classrooms and learning remotely the rest of the time. Parents were given the option of requesting full-time remote learning for their children.
The Democratic mayor conceded there were challenges with the plan as the city recovers from a pandemic. But he said the city has managed to lower the rate of positive cases to around 1% and that it owes it to children and their families to reopen promptly.
"Our kids need to be in school," de Blasio told reporters during a briefing. "Our parents are very, very concerned that our kids have already lost a lot of their education, that they've gone through a lot of trauma. We've got to get them back into school buildings where they can get so much more support."
The comments came a day after a union representing school administrators sent a letter to de Blasio and Chancellor Richard Carranza saying school leaders still had questions on issues ranging from staffing, to personal protective equipment, to ventilation system repairs.
"Regrettably, the city started the planning process far too late for them to have any faith or confidence that they can reopen their buildings on September 10th," according to the letter from Council of School Supervisors and Administrators President Mark Cannizzaro.
Among the questions, whether or not each school will have a nurse, which De Blasio confirmed at his a press conference on Thursday.
"I want to confirm, it announced that every single New York City public school building will have a certified nurse," De Blasio said.
The nurses will be provided by the city's Health and Hospitals team, the same healthcare workers who have been on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic for months. The union representing those nurses, however, suggested this week that starting in-person learning should be delayed.
The United Federation of Teachers has raised similar concerns, with union president Michael Mulgrew asking Wednesday whether any parent would be willing to send their children to a school where the principal believes the building is not ready to open.
De Blasio said there's still a month to address concerns.
Statement from UFT President Michael Mulgrew
The UFT has said repeatedly that we cannot reopen schools unless they are safe for students and staff. The principals' union — whose members will be responsible for enforcing coronavirus safety protocols in the schools — now believes that school buildings will not be ready to open in September.
We need both safety and sanity in this crisis.
Will any parents be willing to put their children in a school whose principal believes the building is not ready to open because it is not safe?