Does the Hybrid School Re-Opening Need a “Pre-Season”?

Mayor League baseball players gather a month before the first game for spring training, the NFL players have been practicing for a few weeks before the early September first game.

In spite of mounting pressure from the unions representing teachers, principals and other school workers the mayor and the school chancellor refuse to move to a phased, aka, delayed, school opening in order to assure safety protocols are in place.

Other large cities, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Miami and others are beginning with a fully remote opening.

In New York State the Big Five have delayed reopening; Yonkers will be fully remote until early October, Buffalo is battling with teachers over the re-opening plan, Rochester is beginning remote with a phased re-opening  and Syracuse will begin with a hybrid model for elementary/middle schools and fully remote for high schools.

The hundreds and hundreds of smaller districts have a vast array of models. Read the Westchester/Rockland plans here.

New York City is struggling to create blended aka hybrid models and have ignored the phased re-opening pathway: begin remote and move slowly, step by step to a hybrid model.  Schools were given a number of choices, alternate days (M-W-F in-person, T-Th remote, flipped the following week, or, M-Tu in-person, W-Th remote with F flipped. The models are both confusing to parents and makes arranging for childcare difficult. Teachers don’t know what class(es) they will be teaching.

The major issue is safety, for children, for staffs, for parents and for others living with children and staff.

The COVID rates by neighborhood vary widely are New Yorkers from the highest COVID zip codes choosing to be tested? The unknowns outweigh the knowns. The city has an agenda: open the schools so that parents can go back to work and recharge the economy, school personnel feel they are being needlessly sacrificed, being unnecessarily put at risk.

Is the motivating factor for the mayor “the good of the students” who need full time teachers? Or, recharging the economy? Or, the reputation and legacy of a mayor who has watched his star dim.

In spite of frequent testing baseball has had a positive COVID test almost every week and professional sports are playing to empty stadiums.

The mayor, boasting about extremely low COVID testing has been threatening, principals and teachers are fearful and worried that schools won’t be ready and the promised protocols will not be in place. The teacher union (UFT) has been preparing members for a possible strike.

A phased re-opening would appear to make sense, in-school training days for teachers, begin the year remote, slowly phase in hybrid in-school/remote instruction, with variability in high schools depending on the size of the school. Allow the data drive the school re-opening calendar.

Why are the mayor and the chancellor adamant about beginning the hybrid model on September 10th?

Mayor de Blasio is term-limited, the June, 2021 primary will select the democratic candidate, and, unless a republican with deep, very deep pockets emerges, the winner of the primary will become the next mayor. Scott Stringer, the current Comptroller, Eric Adams, the Brooklyn Boro President, Cory Johnson, the current leader of the City Council are already running and we can expect three, four, five other candidates. The election will be the first time Rank Choice Voting will be the method of choosing the winner.  Potential candidates are criticizing the performance of de Blasio,

The enmity between de Blasio and Cuomo is unrelenting, and, one-sided; the governor has defanged de Blasio, a permanent detumescence.

Does de Blasio perceive re-opening schools as some sort of a victory?  Fighting for families and children? Preparing for his post-mayor role?  A “hero” who opened schools in spite of the opposition of supervisors and teachers?

Supervisors report to work in a week, (August 31st) and teachers are due the Tuesday after Labor Day, September 8th.

Possible scenarios:

Supervisors and teachers announce a “safety strike,” and offer to continue to work remotely.  The mayor could invoke the Taylor Law, public employee strikes are illegal and the Public Employee Relation Board (PERB)/court-imposed penalties are steep, loss of a day’s pay for each day on strike, fines for the union and the loss of dues check off for a period determined by the courts. On the other hand the courts could sustain the union claim that the schools are unsafe.

Under the Taylor Law any “concerted action” (sick-outs) is considered a strike with Taylor Law penalties accruing.

The governor could intervene.

Current legislation empowers the governor to “temporarily suspend” any statute, local law or rule “if necessary to assist or aid in coping with such disaster” upon declaring an emergency order.

Can the governor temporarily suspend mayoral control law and appoint an acting chancellor to run the school system?

Under his emergency powers can the governor order the city to move to a phased re-opening?

In 1975 the city, without warning and in the midst of contract negotiations laid off 15,000 teachers, the union immediately went out on strike, and, rapidly realized that the strike was funding the city deficit. After five days on strike the union worked out a complex settlement, delaying raises and loaning the city pension fund dollars preventing the city from defaulting.

Layoffs are looming, the state and the city financial situations are dire, teachers and supervisors are frightened.

A vaccine, at best, is a year away,

Most people in the US should be able to get vaccinated by the second half of 2021 according to the US’s top health officialDr. Anthony Fauci.; other researchers have doubts that the vaccine will protect us over time

With each day the city moves closer to a supervisor/teacher strike, with each day the city moves closer to layoffs, the mayor seems unwilling, or unable, to negotiate a settlement acceptable to supervisors, teachers and parents.

In 1975 a behind-the-scenes power broker, Jack Bigel and Al Shanker crafted a settlement (Read the absolutely fascinating account here) that averted an immanent city bankruptcy.

Is there a “hero” out there to put the pieces of the zig-saw puzzle together?

A “safe” process leading the way to school re-opening and averting layoffs and devastating reductions in city services.

This week is the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

Listen to Rhiannon Giddens, “Don’t Call Me Names”   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2H_oHAqTbbs

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s