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The (Last Minute) Plans of Mice and Men… and NYC Schools

Mayor Bill De Blasio officially shut down New York City public schools as of Monday, March 16, 2020. Since then, he and School Chancellor Richard Carranza have had over five months to plan for how to reopen them in September.

In July, they announced that families would have a choice: They could opt to continue the same 100% learning from home that had been hastily implemented in the spring, or they could choose to attend “hybrid,” meaning a combination of in person and remote instruction.

Without any details about how that would work, which days/times their child would attend, who would teach which classes, whether transportation would be provided, how safety measures would be implemented, etc… parents were ordered to sign up for one or the other by August 7. (Though the deadline proved ultimately meaningless, as they were also told they could switch from hybrid to remote at any time. Switching from remote to hybrid, however, would only be allowed during predetermined periods. Not being fools, the majority of parents opted to take a wait and see approach and not register any response at all.)

The week that decisions were due, Chancellor Carranza boasted about the “huge amount of effort… getting our schools ready, months and months of preparation, we are sparing no expense, we’re going to do whatever it takes.”

Teachers countered that they, in fact, received “zero training… to make remote learning better.”

As of Monday, August 24, there was still no official start date for the 2020-2021 school year, and the United Federation of Teachers was threatening a “job action” (i.e. strike) unless their list of safety demands were met.

Reports that UFT president Michael Mulgrew was making calls to union representatives in every borough, gathering support for a “job action” (i.e. strike) appeared to spur the Mayor into a flurry of Potemkin action

On Monday, August 24, he announced that all schools – traditional public, public charter, and private – could submit proposals to use outside spaces during the instructional day, whether it be tents set up in playgrounds, closing streets, or taking advantage of parks. (Where would schools get funding for such extras? Carranza suggested utilizing PTA funds. And for schools that lacked such funds, well, uh, maybe other schools would share?)

De Blasio promised that every school that submitted a proposal by Friday, August 28, would receive a response by the following Friday, September 4.

Yes, that means the DOE would potentially read and review over 1,700 proposals in one week, and respond to each. Does that seem feasible to anyone who has dealt with DOE bureaucracy?

As my rising high school Junior son suggested, “Sure, if they just reject everyone.”

Even that sounds optimistic.

Then, on Tuesday, August 25, De Blasio announced that he was dispatching over 100 teams of engineers from the School Construction Authority to inspect the ventilations systems of every single building set to welcome students and teachers come September. These new teams would be on top of the teams that he swore had been working tirelessly all summer to… do the same thing.

He promised that every classroom in all 1,600+ buildings (some buildings house more than one school) would be thoroughly assessed within one week. Does that seem feasible to anyone who has dealt with DOE bureaucracy?

“Sure,” my son said, “If they don’t do a good job. Why are you assuming they intend to do a good job?”

Finally, on Thursday, August 27, parents at long last got the answer to the question of: Who Will Teach My Children?

The pushback from principals and teachers came instantaneously:

As did the back-pedaling:

So, to summarize:

Schools might reopen on September 10. 

If they do reopen on September 10, in the two weeks preceding (which includes a long holiday weekend), the Department of Education will review and respond to over 1700 plans for outdoor learning (funding sources TBA), examine and certify the safety of over 1600 buildings (methods beyond toilet paper on a stick, TBA), assemble (and recruit from administrative positions and the Absent Teacher Reserve – in the middle of a hiring freeze) several thousand new teaching teams with the help of Virtual Content Specialists not yet hired (funding sources TBA).

Does that seem feasible to anyone who has dealt with DOE bureaucracy?

Let us know your thoughts below!

What do you think?

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