It’s no easy feat to reopen the largest public school district in the country. And the attempt to do so is causing a power struggle between Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city’s teachers.
The United Federation of Teachers — the union for the city’s public school teachers — hosted a news conference Aug. 19 to discuss the details of its proposed reopening plan, which includes a three-page checklist detailing needs like stocks of personal protective equipment, the availability of nursing staff and facilities, ventilation, and signage, among other criteria.
UFT president Michael Mulgrew also submitted the plan with extra requirements for coronavirus testing. He believes anyone who wants to enter a city public school must have proof of an antibody test, or if the antibody test is negative, a negative diagnostic test.
But how will some 1.1 million students and 75,000 teachers — not to mention other essential school staff members — be tested and ready to go for Sept. 10? According to Mulgrew, they won’t. In fact, even if every school endeavored to pass the guidelines set forth by the union, Mulgrew doesn’t anticipate a safe reopening will be possible for all city schools until mid-September, or possibly even early October.
“This city went through hell and back, and we are not going to hell again because of short-sighted political agendas,” Mulgrew said.
If de Blasio forces in-person classes when the building and its coronavirus-related policies are unsafe, Mulgrew says he’s willing to go to court over it — even if their refusal to teach could be construed as a violation of law. He also floated the possibility of going on strike.
“I’m not going to allow these provocations,” de Blasio said. “We are going to keep moving forward to get schools ready for our kids. That’s what the children and the parents of New York City are asking us to do.”