NEW YORK (NewsNation) — Back to school is being rolled back in America’s largest school district, giving New York City teachers a few more days to prepare for students in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.
New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio made the announcement Tuesday with union leaders representing teachers, staff and administrators by his side, at a safe social distance.
It was those same unions that forced his hand.
Educators in New York public schools have been calling the district’s September 10th back to school plan unrealistic to the point of being unsafe and were threatening job action if the city didn’t back down.
So back down it did, in a sudden policy reversal.
In the deal struck with the unions, instruction begins September 16th. All students will spend the first few days remote-learning, before in-person instruction begins on September 21st.
“This is one of those only in New York moments,” said Mayor DeBlasio. “People, all different backgrounds, all different viewpoints; but we’re coming together in common cause for our kids.”
For months, his administration has struck a much different tone.
Even as the country’s other big school systems like Chicago, Los Angeles and Houston decided to start the school year with students learning remotely, New York stuck with its plan for a hybrid reopening September 10th, despite objections from teachers and principals.
It took teachers threatening a strike vote to change the district’s mind.
Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, called it a win for all sides.
“And we now can say that the New York public school system has the most aggressive policies and greatest safeguards of any school system in the United States of America,” said Mulgrew.
NewsNation talked with some Manhattan parents questioning what the victory was for them. One father playing with his daughter in a park on the Upper West Side agreed safety is paramount, but said, “A lot of parents are like, ‘6 days? What’s the plan here, guys?’ I don’t really see the plan here, y’know?’”
Others agreed it’s challenging for parents returning to work or hoping to care for children as they learn from home.
New York’s 1.1-million public school students have been out of the classroom since March 13th.