NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The school year for most of New York City’s 1.1 million students officially starts next week, but are schools and the de Blasio Administration ready?
It may not be a sure thing, CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported Friday.
It could come down to the wire whether all of the city’s elementary schools will be ready to open Tuesday.
United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said, as of now, only 500 of the 800 schools for K-8 students are fully staffed.
“We’ll be working through the weekend to get the other 300 ready,” Mulgrew said.
“What happens to the 300 schools if they’re not ready to open?” Kramer asked.
“Well, I’m sure that number is going to go down, but if the school is not ready to open, it won’t be able to open… You can’t open the school unless it’s fully staffed,” said Mulgrew.
Union officials said they’re looking for a range of teachers, some called “common branch” teachers who can teach any elementary grade, as well as bilingual and special education teachers.
It’s unclear if they’ll have all the specialists they need to reopen.
“There is a contingency plan where the chancellor has told anyone who works at the [Department of Education] with a teaching certificate, no matter what they’re position is, they can be deployed into a school on Tuesday in case there’s a problem,” Mulgrew said.
Watch Marcia Kramer’s report —
At middle and high schools, some teachers have already been told they’re on double duty, teaching subjects they’ve never taught before.
“So we’re asking our music teacher, our theater teacher and our phys ed teacher to teach science because we don’t have enough science teachers,” longtime science teacher Mike Loeb told CBS2’s Jessica Layton.
Loeb has been helping his colleagues get caught up on the curriculum.
“My principal is a big baseball fan, so he likens it to asking your first baseman to go pitch,” he said.
When asked about the schools that are still not ready, a spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “We will be staffed and ready for the first day of elementary schools.”
Officials are racing the clock to have enough teachers to staff all the schools. Elementary schools open Tuesday. Middle and high schools open Thursday.
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Mayor de Blasio, again, dodged questions about how many more teachers need to be hired.
“I’m going to announce it when we get to the final thing. The most important reality here is to have every school have the compliment they need for opening, and I feel very good about the effort,” said de Blasio.
Meanwhile, there were a number of other problems. More than 50 teachers at a Staten Island school are under a two week quarantine after coming in contact with a person who tested positive at a staff meeting.
Parents at the school are questioning whether schools are ready and safe.
“I feel like if we can’t go and sit in restaurants, my kid can’t sit in the classroom all day. I just don’t think it’s safe,” said Letisha Ashby.
“My grandkids are not coming back to school… They didn’t clean the schools properly,” said Darlene Curry-Sawyer.
“I mean, how do you manage planning anything when everything changes every week?” mother Katie Bryne said.
“My husband and I both work full-time, and it’s very challenging, and yeah, not knowing is really hard,” mother Tiffany Henkel said.
Bryne and Henkley both planned to send their fourth and sixth graders to school to begin blended learning Tuesday and are now caught up in the confusion.
“Everything has been so bad and so poorly managed and run,” Bryne said.
A spokesperson says the teachers union president is optimistic kids will be able to go into the classroom starting Tuesday.
Officials said parents will be notified Monday if their schools are unable to open on time.
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