Unions applaud city for delaying school reopening

Stephon Johnson | 9/3/2020, midnight
On Tuesday, Sept. 1, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza and several unions agreed to ...
school/education Pexels/Pixabay photo

On Tuesday, Sept. 1, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza and several unions agreed to delay the beginning of the COVID-impacted 2020-21 school year from Sept. 10 to Sept. 21.

As part of the agreement, all New York City public schools will delay openings while all safety arrangements are completed and meet the standards of independent medical experts and labor unions. The safety arrangements include everything from ventilation checks to ensuring school nurses are assigned to every school.

United Federation of Teachers (UFT) President Michael Mulgrew thanked the mayor for coming to an agreement with his union and noted the difficulties everyone will face getting things back to normal.

“This has been a difficult time for our city and what you––the things that we’re going to still have to deal with are going to be difficult also,” said Mulgrew at Tuesday’s announcement. “But I think it’s incumbent upon all the leaders in the city and all the leaders inside of each school to take this spirit of making sure that we’re working together, to make sure that what we’re doing is in the interest of everyone who walks into that school building.”

Leaders of other unions were at City Hall to thank de Blasio for agreeing to a delay.

“You know, there was a silver lining about this whole pandemic––it has been that the war has recognized the work of people, everyday people who do work, you know, cafeteria workers, nurses, and people who sometimes get overlooked, right?” said DC37 Executive Director Henry Garrido. “Early childhood educators who did a tremendous job of keeping the kids…even during the most challenging time.”

Teachers will still report to schools on Sept. 8 to help develop their remote and in-person plans for the year. However, any school building or room that doesn’t meet the safety standards will remain closed.

One union leader, whose members are responsible for keeping school buildings clean, is happy that the agreement gives his constituents more time to clean schools.

Kyle Bragg, president of 32BJ SEIU (Service Employees International Union), praised the city for halting its school reopening plan until all safety measures are put in place.

“As the union representing 6,400 NYC public school cleaners and handypersons, we strongly support Mayor de Blasio’s decision to delay school reopening by 10 days to ensure that facilities are fully ready to serve millions of students, teachers and their families,” stated Bragg. “While we agree that it is important for schools to be functioning for the sake of NYC families, they must function in a way that is going to be safe for students and staff.

“32BJ SEIU cleaners and handypersons have been on the front lines of the coronavirus throughout the entire pandemic, diligently cleaning and sanitizing grounds to ensure the health and safety of the millions who rely on the schools,” continued Bragg.

Mark Cannizzaro, president of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators (the union representing principals and vice principals), added that beginning the already chaotic school year will take a team effort.

“Although the task before us remains monumental, and time will not be a luxury right now, at least there is the time to start to think about things and make sure that we’re able to provide the program for our students that we need and we’re able to do it in a safe and conducive environment,” said Cannizzaro.