Principals and Teachers Demand a Delayed Reopening, a Phasing in of the Hybrid Model: Are We Heading Towards a Confrontation? Principals/Teachers versus the Mayor/Chancellor?

“In order for schools to reopen and stay open, the percentage of positive tests in New York City must be less than 3% using a 7-day rolling average. Schools will need to close if the percentage of positive tests in New York City are equal to or more than 3% using a 7-day rolling average. It is important to note that the above threshold is just one trigger for closing schools, but may not be the only trigger. For example, a decision to close schools would be made where there were recurrent, uncontrolled outbreaks of COVI D-19 in schools, even if the overall case rates across New York City were to remain low.”

 (From the New York City Department of Education’s School Reopening Plan Submission to the New York State Department of Education (Read entire plan here)

What does “recurrent, uncontrolled outbreaks of COVID-19 in schools” mean? How many “outbreaks” in a single school? One? Two?  In how many schools?

A scenario:

A few days after school opens a student tells a teacher that an uncle who lives with her family is sick, the teacher tells her principal, who reports to the superintendent, who reports to the executive superintendent who reports to the bureaucracy. A few days latter the student appears “symptomatic,” and stops coming to school.

The principal insists on testing the student, it takes a few days to get parental consent, awaiting testing results the department takes no action, no one has yet tested positive. The test comes back positive, according to the protocol only the class of the student is moved to remote learning.

Contact-tracers are shunned, in the undocumented community no one is willing to talk with government agents.

Other students appear symptomatic.

The superintendent says only the class of the student can go fully remote.

The principal, without approval from the superintendent, places the entire school on remote learning.

The department removes the principal.

The supervisor (CSA) and the teacher (UFT) unions call emergency remote citywide meetings and vote to go fully remote, without the approval of the chancellor.

Is this scenario unrealistic?

In de Blasio’s home district fifteen principals sent a letter to the chancellor, with specific reasons why the current blended model is dangerous and urged a full remote opening,

The NYC Reopening plan, referenced above, is complex, with many, many moving parts.

The supervisor (CSA) and teacher union (UFT) have called for a delayed opening, beginning all remote and phasing in a hybrid model. (Read UFT position here ).

Unfortunately the best laid plans stumble, and stumbles will result in the spread of COVID to students, parents, families and staff with dire consequences.

Israel apparently controlled the spread of COVID, opened schools and COVID exploded across the nation.

Confident it had beaten the coronavirus and desperate to reboot a devastated economy, the Israeli government invited the entire student body back in late May.

Within days, infections were reported at a Jerusalem high school, which quickly mushroomed into the largest outbreak in a single school in Israel, possibly the world.

The virus rippled out to the students’ homes and then to other schools and neighborhoods, ultimately infecting hundreds of students, teachers and relatives.

 Parents and staffs are concerned: is the promised process of rapid testing, essential for the system to work, in place?

City public health officials said they were growing increasingly alarmed by the delays, pointing out that widespread testing and quick turnaround times were needed to reduce transmission by asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic patients, who are believed to play a major part in the virus’s spread.

Leonie Haimson, a frequent commenter on schools weighs the risks and benefits of a school reopening. Read here.

The Urban Assembly Maker Academy released an alternate phased reopening plan Read here

The New York City Reopening Plan has to be approved by the State Department of Education, and the Board of Regents just selected a member of the Board, Betty Rosa, who was serving as chancellor, as interim commissioner. The new interim commissioner will have to decide whether to accept the NYC plan: quite a first decision!

The one topic that sadly has fallen by the wayside is what happens when the kids get back to school.

School leaders are struggling to create a hybrid model: dividing classes into two or three cohorts also involves the many, many nuances.  Siblings have to be in the same cohorts, special education students group in cohorts in integrated models, the in-person and the remote teacher collaboration, and on and on.  In a letter to the chancellor the president of the supervisor’s union provided a long, long list of unanswered questions.

While safety dominates the discussion there no past practices to use as a guide, the reopening of schools is learning to swim by being pushed off the end of the diving board. Swimming lessons on land do not guarantee that anyone has learned how to swim.

The least discussed area is the question of instruction.

Teachers will have a rare opportunity: teaching half a class – perhaps ten or twelve students on either successive days or alternate days and the other days remotely. How do you integrate in-person and remote learning? Perhaps with two teachers: the in-person and the remote teacher?

After three months of remote instruction (April – June) has there been a “learning loss?”

The question of learning loss is controversial, Paul T. von Hippel took a deep dive into the research on summer learning loss and decided the research did not hold up to scrutiny.

 Early-childhood scholars believe that nearly all of the gaps between children’s skills form before the age of five, or even before the age of three. According to their research, the gaps that we observe in ninth grade were already present, and almost the same size, as they were when those children started kindergarten. Where does summer learning loss fit into that picture?

The Harvard School of Education explored options,

School districts should explore common online lessons for students as opposed to teachers creating their own assignments. One way to ease the transition … is for districts to create “standardized modules” that all teachers can use and administer to their students.

Scott Marion, Center for Assessment, warns,

 “Do not give a general assessment of the prior year content, or earlier content, that isn’t tied to your curriculum as closely as possible. And if you do, don’t make deterministic decisions about them,” said Marion, noting that the results will be tenuous at best. For example, some students who look like they’re behind might bounce back in two weeks and should not be automatically put in a remedial track.

 “I don’t think I can give you a large-scale assessment that can tell you what aspects of fractions you know and don’t know,” Marion explains. “We need things that are much more in teachers’ hands for the instructional piece.”

Think of a balance scale, on one side school re-opening: NYC the only large city not to go all remote, hybrid maybe more effective instruction than fully remote, a hybrid model will enable more parents to go back to work, if there are jobs to go back too, on the other side of the balance the dangers, spreading COVID from children to adults in schools and at home and from parents and relatives to students.

Which side of the balance are you on?

Listen to “The Sounds of Silence,” Simon & Garfunkel

2 responses to “Principals and Teachers Demand a Delayed Reopening, a Phasing in of the Hybrid Model: Are We Heading Towards a Confrontation? Principals/Teachers versus the Mayor/Chancellor?

  1. Eric Nadelstern

    In which universe is human life subordinate to in-classroom instruction?

    Would Trump, Cuomo, DeBlasio and Carranza move to open schools if we first establish that they could be held accountable for pandemic war crimes?


  2. I don’t trust school districts or even families themselves to be vigilant of symptoms, testing, contact tracing, or even masking and social distancing in schools. Going back on time with a hybrid model is just asking for trouble, confused educational plans, and too many unknown variables. I love my job and miss teaching in person, but I strongly believe that we should be starting the year in a fully remote situation and potentially phase in a hybrid model after some time, depending upon COVID numbers and the way the pandemic progresses in the autumn.


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