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“I speak to teachers in the same district and they are doing the same, trying to make it work in a system that has not been working for a long time, especially during a global pandemic,” said Shahid Wright, a science teacher at the School of Earth Exploration and Discovery Harlem. “I speak to other teachers and their answers are the same, just trying to make it work.”

New York City public schools reopened this week for the first time since March when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down operations. However, schools didn’t reopen for all students. As part of a staggered reopening process, this week belonged to pre-K, special education and pre-school classes for 3-year-olds.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio delayed reopening schools earlier this month when the United Federation of Teachers, the union representing New York City school teachers, threatened to strike over their lack of confidence in the city’s safety protocols. De Blasio believes that the city’s plan will work and that parents, teachers and students will see positive results.

On Monday, the mayor said, “…We were given the opportunity to see pure joy, pure hope, pure possibility at the Mosaic Pre-K Center in Elmhurst, Queens, to see kids ready to get into that school and see their friends and get all the blessings of a pre-K education. Teachers, educators, staff, everyone ready to go, ready to serve those kids and families, excited to get back to work the way they know works best, right there in person with kids, parents feeling such excitement as well.”

Last Thursday, the mayor said the delay was necessary due to a shortage of teachers and school supplies.

But none of this matters to Wright, who believes that de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza’s plan leaves a lot to be desired. When the AmNews asked Wright if the plan seemed clear, the teacher responded that it wasn’t.

“No, it is not clear in my opinion,” Wright said. “There seems to be a lot of promises being said and there just seems to be no real plan or way to execute during these times.” But Wright did say that the teachers and students are handling it as well as they can.

“I think students are trying their best. Every student situation is unique, and in different situations our kids are stressed for a plethora of reasons,” Wright continued. “As their teacher, you want to be that person that can answer all their questions and make them feel safe. But most of the questions we don’t have answers for and it’s unnerving.”

While members of the UFT are dealing with an alleged lack of clarity from City Hall, the union representing teachers at the Hunter College Campus Schools took their grievances to a state court.

Officials at the Professional Staff Congress (PSC-CUNY) petitioned the New York State Supreme Court this week to grant a temporary restraining order and injunction against the City University of New York and Hunter College. They’ve asked a judge to bar administrators from forcing its constituents to return to in-person teaching at the public elementary and high school until “real” HEPA filters are installed in every classroom, as required in their reopening plan. They’ve also asked the judge to direct CUNY to allow an independent agent to inspect the building and ventilation system.

“Teachers’ life-and-death concerns have been met with inaction by Hunter College President Jennifer Raab and HCCS Director Lisa Siegmann,” stated PSC-CUNY President Barbara Bowen. “Their demands for COVID testing, small classroom pods, independent inspections and other protections provided to students and staff at all other NYC public schools have been denied. And now we have learned Hunter isn’t even following its own, inadequate safety plan.”

The AmNews recently reported that HCCS teachers accused Hunter College President Jennifer Raab and HCCS Director Lisa Siegmann of, allegedly, not allowing an independent safety inspector access to the school and passing off a memo from a contractor hired to repair the ventilation system as an independent inspector’s report.

The AmNews contacted CUNY for comment, but officials said they don’t respond to pending litigation. Last week, they didn’t respond to requests by press time.

Much has been made of the lack of resources available to public schools across the country. Stories of kids using the internet at fast food places (or any place they can) have made headlines. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the inequities of the school system and, according to Wright, it’s no different in the five boroughs. Wright demonstrated the difference between schools that have resources and schools that don’t.

“The fact that students still do not have devices that are capable of streaming or performing tasks that are required for us to teach them in a virtual classroom is problematic,” said Wright.

“Students are using either their parent phones or guardian phones, and some students don’t have reliable internet connections whereas others do. The students are utilizing devices that are shared between other family members that live with them.

“At our school we don’t even have devices to give to our students to pick up and utilize for blended and or remote learning,” continued Wright. “We do not have enough technology for students. We don’t have enough teachers. We don’t have enough resources to support our families.”