UFT & elected officials to de Blasio: Not good enough

Stephon Johnson | 8/27/2020, midnight
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has added another element to his COVID-19 school plan: outdoor classes.
Classroom/education Pixabay

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has added another element to his COVID-19 school plan: outdoor classes.

On Monday, Aug. 24, De Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza announced the “Outdoor Learning” initiative for the 2020-21 school year. According to de Blasio, this initiative would allow teachers to hold classes in schoolyards, nearby park spaces and adjacent streets. The mayor said the program is open to public, private and charter schools.

The program is said to prioritize neighborhoods hardest hit by the coronavirus including Van Cortlandt Park and Jerome Park in the Bronx, Washington Heights and Inwood Park in the Manhattan, Corona and Briarwood in Queens. Submissions for outside learning would be reviewed by members of the Department of Transportation, the Department of Sanitation, the New York Police Department, the New York Fire Department and the Department of Parks & Recreation.

“Our students need time to run and play, explore and create in a safe, socially distanced way,” said Carranza in a statement. “Outdoor Learning provides more of that, more often, and we are grateful to our sister agencies for working together to make this possible.”

“Outdoor Learning will give all of our children the quality education they deserve in a safe and socially distanced environment,” stated de Blasio.

But it’s another in a set of changes and plans that have been met with a “No” from the teachers union and from other elected officials. United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew stated that de Blasio’s new initiative, like everything else, doesn’t meet the union’s standards.

“The mayor’s reopening plan continues to fall short, particularly in terms of necessary testing,” said Mulgrew.

Mulgrew outlined a plan of his own that he said would meet the union’s standards. In the plan, all adults and children must be tested for COVID-19 before they can come back to school, there would be random tests of each school community to catch potential asymptomatic spread of the coronavirus and union members would inspect every school to make sure the supply of personal protective equipment, social distancing ventilation upgrades, etc. is adhered to.

The union said that if all of these measures aren’t in place, the schools shouldn’t open.

During the announcement, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, NAACP New York State Conference President Hazel Dukes, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and others expressed support for the UFT’s plan.

Stringer said that the UFT’s plan is a “comprehensive proposal that offers firm guidelines to get teachers and students back in the classroom safely. Most importantly, it prioritizes the health and safety of the entire school community, and it’s an approach the City should embrace without delay.”

Members of principal unions like the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators have called for a delay in reopening schools until more safety measures are in place. Something that New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams agrees with.

“Re-opening strategies for schools, just as with any other element of reopening, need to be driven by medical science and minimize risk to the greatest extent possible,” said Williams. “As the public health crisis evolves, so too can our response.”