NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — As the next wave of New York City public school children prepare for in-person learning this week, there’s a new standoff over safety.
Now, the union representing principals is calling for a state takeover of city schools.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza got a failing grade from the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, which unanimously voted “no confidence” in their handling of reopening schools.
“We just felt that we had to make a public statement at this point, because this past week, too many repeat errors occurred, and we need to be able to do better by our folks, so that they can do better by children,” CSA President Mark Cannizzaro said Sunday night.
Twice, in-person learning has been delayed. On Friday, a last-minute change allowed teachers to work remotely from home — in some cases, even if kids are in the classroom.
Fed up, the principals’ union is calling for the mayor to hand over control of city schools to the state Department of Education for the remainder of the pandemic.
Students at K-5 and K-8 schools are expected to head back into classrooms Tuesday. Middle school and high school will start on Thursday, but many principals, teachers and students, like Stuyvesant High School senior Meril Mousoom, said they’re not comfortable returning, CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported.
“I honestly don’t feel safe, because I’ve learned about the fact that there is actually a really huge lack of ventilation in schools,” Mousoom said.
Michael Perlberg is principal of MS 839 in Brooklyn.
“Many of our schools still lack the resources to open safely for in-person learning this week,” Perlberg said. “Many of my colleagues are pressured to not speak up about the challenges they are facing for fear of retaliation.”
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The alterations have many parents reluctant to trust the city.
“It seems like there has been a lot of flip-flopping back-and-forth and changing things at the 11th hour,” parent Molly Jaffe said.
Amir Khorami has his two sons enrolled in the hybrid plan.
“We felt like we want our sons — both of them — to have access to teachers, to interact with their peers and have that normalcy in their life,” he said.
But he said he will change in a second if he thinks it’s not working out or safe anymore.
“If it goes all virtual, we’ll be fine with that,” he said.
Teacher Nate Floro is among the Department of Education workforce heading back to school for in-person learning this week, and he believes the city is making a huge mistake.
“It’s really scary,” he said. “I’m really pretty angry at this point that none of our concerns have really landed with the mayor.”
“I think it’s about time. I wish that my union had the wherewithal to do the same — the UFT,” said fellow teacher Marissa Garcia.
Faculty have been raising concerns about poor ventilation, lack of PPE, a shortage of teachers and no required COVID testing of staff or students.
“If you’ve got 100 people that haven’t been tested — because mandatory testing was dropped by both the UFT and the DOE as part of going back — 10 kids, 100 kids on mass transit, there’s your second wave,” Garcia said.
The state DOE said it is monitoring the reopening, and while Gov. Andrew Cuomo doesn’t control the department, he said the state will intervene if needed.
“I think the concern that the principals union has is also going to be shared by the teachers union, is also going to be shared by the parents of the students in New York City schools,” he said Monday. “If there is a problem, there is a problem, and the numbers will show if there’s a problem, and then we’ll act accordingly.”
De Blasio said he would shut down schools if the infection rate averaged 3% over seven days. On Monday, he reported citywide positive tests are 1.93%, with at least 332 new COVID-19 cases.
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said that’s too close for comfort, adding he’s looking into taking legal action to stop the mayor from reopening schools.
“This couldn’t be any simpler. It couldn’t be simpler. Phase in. Go all remote at the beginning. You don’t have to be the only big city to attempt this. Taking a risk we don’t need to take, spending money we just don’t have,” Williams said.
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