NYC public schools delay start of in-person classes to Sept. 21

In-person classes will be delayed throughout the New York City public school system by 11 days to allow extra time for teachers to prepare, announced Mayor Bill de Blasio Tuesday.

Speaking during a briefing on the city's response to the pandemic, de Blasio said the official start date to in-school instruction will be Sept. 21. Remote learning will begin Sept. 16.

"The normal school year, educators, staff are in their buildings by the day after Labor Day and that will be true here as well Tuesday, Sept. 8th," de Blasio said. "The school days were slated to begin September 10 we are going to hold that for a few days. We are going to allow preparation days for our educators and staff so Sept. 10th and 11th and Sept. 14th and 15th will be days devoted to preparation."

The development comes after de Blasio emphasized for months that the city's 1.1 million public school students need schools to resume in-person instruction this fall after the coronavirus abruptly forced a thorny plunge into remote learning in March. 

The United Federation of Teachers union was opposed to the school's initial reopening plan sighting safety concerns. The union said it was prepared to go to court or on strike, even though New York state bars teachers and other public employees from striking.

COVD-19 testing for all people inside the schools — a sticking point between the city and the UFT — will be conducted on a monthly basis for students and staff in a sample testing group, announced de Blasio.

"A lot was on the line here to work through. But I’m pleased to report that we’ve come to an agreement to move forward, to address real concerns that have been raised bout how to do things the right way, how to do them the safe, healthy way, how to make sure people are prepared for the school year under absolutely unprecedented conditions," de Blasio said.

In addition, schools will be given a 30-day supply of cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment every month, said NYC Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza.

“We can now say that New York City’s public school system has the most aggressive policies and greatest safeguards of any school system in the United States of America," UFT President Michael Mulgrew said.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson called the delay a "step in the right direction" but chided the mayor for not taking the "common-sense measure" sooner. 

"Instead, Mayor de Blasio dragged his feet while parents and educators fretted about how to make the impossible work, waiting until a week before school is scheduled to provide clarity for our school community," Johnson said in a statement. "We live in uncertain times. Everyone is on edge. This type of indecision only fuels confusion."

Even as other big U.S. school systems — including Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and Houston — decided to start the school year with students learning remotely, de Blasio stuck with a plan for a hybrid reopening that was intended to feature as much classroom time as possible while still allowing for social distancing.

The city’s plan to restart schools includes mask-wearing, staggered schedules to reduce the number of students in rooms, supplying every school building with a nurse and asking all staffers to get tested shortly before school starts. The city dispatched ventilation experts to check out air flow in classrooms, and officials said they would work to make parks and streets available as teaching space if principals were interested.

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New York City students had their last day of in-class instruction on March 13. All schools statewide were closed by March 18.

During the summer, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state would allow a return to in-person school in regions where fewer than 5% of people tested for COVID-19 came back positive.

The entire state has been well under that threshold all summer.

The Democratic governor last month cleared schools to open around the state, while cautioning that they still needed to address parents’ and teachers’ safety concerns.