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Back to school blues in the Big Apple

New York City pushes back the start of in-person classes again

Students and teachers practice coronavirus prevention measures outside a New York City school on Sept. 2. Associated Press/Photo by John Minchillo

Back to school blues in the Big Apple

Families with children in New York City’s public schools are hopeful the third time’s the charm. Officials delayed a return to in-person instruction for the nation’s largest public school system twice this month because they could not come up with enough teachers and supplies to meet the safety standards outlined in a tenuous agreement with the district’s unions. Students attend virtually with some preschool and special education classes onsite for the first time this week. More than half a million of the district’s 1.1 million students are scheduled to return next week.

Mayor Bill de Blasio made headlines this summer when he boldly announced the city’s public school students would follow a hybrid schedule of one to three days per week in school buildings and the rest online. Other major cities such as Los Angeles and Chicago projected online starts to the school year. Tensions developed immediately between school administrators and teachers over details like class sizes, personal protective equipment, and building ventilation.

“If it were up to me, I’d send them five days a week,” said parent Dori Kleinman, who expressed concern the lengthy break from in-person instruction was slowing the development of her children in the fourth and eighth grades. “I feel like we’ve got to rip the Band-Aid off here.”

Teachers remain skeptical school leaders will meet their requirements by next week.

“It’s not good enough because they’re still just kicking the can down the road,” said Bronx Public School 59 fourth grade teacher and librarian Daniel Leviatin.

De Blasio maintains it’s simply too difficult to reach all of the city’s children through remote instruction and it exacerbates inequities, potentially causing permanent academic shortfalls for vulnerable students. On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, he expressed optimism next week’s launch will hold firm: “I feel very confident about that date.”

Laura Edghill

Laura is an education correspondent for WORLD. She is a World Journalism Institute and Northwestern University graduate and serves as the communications director for her church. Laura resides with her husband and three sons in Clinton Township, Mich.



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