September 21 School Opening and Unanswered Questions: Requiring Vaccinations, Remote Instruction, Teacher Accommodations, Summer School and “Catching Up”

As the COVID positive rates continue to spiral downwards and the vaccination numbers increase the State is moving towards a full school opening. Broadway can reopen on September 14th, large sports venues allowing larger and larger crowds and school districts are planning full reopening: with a host of issues to be resolved.

Will school districts retain a remote instruction option?

In NYC, for a subset of medically fragile children: maybe. It is highly unlikely that individual schools will operate in-person and remote; it is too complicated and there are other options. For example, children seeking remote option can be clustered in a district-wide remote school. The Department and the Union will partner in an in-person school initiative.

Can COVID vaccinations be required for students?

The NYS Department of Health currently requires vaccinations for school enrollment. See details here

Across the nation many states have vaccination requirements, and, in some states there is virulent opposition by anti-vaxxer parents. Some states have religious and medical exemptions. The decision would be made at the state level and it is highly unlikely for this September; a year or so down the road when vaccinations for children are available the state may develop policies..

 Can COVID vaccinations be required for teachers and other school staff?

The Supreme Court sustained the right of a city to require smallpox vaccinations during an epidemic. The penalty for refusing a vaccination was a fine. The court, in a strongly worded opinion upheld the “police powers” of local government and the obligation to protect the health and safety of citizens.

The employer can require vaccinations for pre-service teachers, part of the job application process; to the best of my knowledge does not currently exist.

For in-service teachers in unionized school districts the question is less clear. Most union contracts require management to negotiate changes in “terms and conditions of employment” with the collective bargaining agent, the union.; however, state legislatures could pass laws governing requiring vaccination. In New York City/State the issue has not arisen.

If vaccinations are highly effective and we move to “herd immunity” and COVID becomes rare these issues will fade away; however, if the pace of vaccinations continues to slow and herd immunity is not reached governments may consider requiring vaccinations. Another issue, so far unanswerable, for how long will the vaccination protect us?  The flu vaccination formulation changes from year to year, will we require booster COVID vaccinations?  If so, how often?

Will school districts continue to make remote “accommodations” for teachers?

Prior to COVID an accommodation was a classroom on the first floor, an early or late session program, etc., the accommodation had to be achievable by the school. As we moved to remote learning all teachers were remote, as we moved to hybrid models we needed many remote teachers. The Department granted just about every request for remote accommodation; if we’re fully back to school there won’t be a remote option. If there is a small subset of students the Department and the Union will have to agree upon a selection procedure.

Why did schools replace snow days with remote days?

New York State requires 180 school days and next school year has a very tight calendar, Labor Day is September 6th, June 19th is an additional holiday (Juneteenth) and a “snow” day that reduces the calendar to under 180 days must be made up from a holiday or through extended schools days. Remote day(s) resolves the issue.

Has the Department decided how they’re going to use the additional Federal and State dollars?

The Federal (Biden Rescue Plan) dollars are only for two years and there are strings, the State Foundation Aid dollars are added to school budgets. As I have written everybody has suggestions (See here), and, the Department is releasing plans as they’re agreed upon.

For example, last year the NYC Teaching Fellows program had 75 students, next year 900 students; a sensible decision, the Department will need many more teachers for the 21-22 school year.

Every week the Department and the Unions meet to discuss and plan for the 21-22 school year.  The complexity is mind boggling: for example,

  • Create a summer school that is both exciting for children and instructionally meaningful, and, attracting teachers.
  • Did students “fall behind”? How do we know? Do we test, and, how do we use the test results? Traditional remediation programs have rarely “remediated” anything?
  • How do we support many, many thousands of brand new teachers?

I’m sure the list goes on and on.

The “Remediation Mindset” is a serious issue, Scott Marion, at the Center for Assessment suggests,

What teachers really need are good pre-assessments for the first unit or two that they’re teaching this year. What key knowledge and skills do kids need to succeed in this first or second unit? Then teachers must figure out what they need to build those skills. After that, they should do a pre-assessment for every following unit to find out what they need to shore up.

Read the entire post here.

An adventure in collaborative decision-making.

3 responses to “September 21 School Opening and Unanswered Questions: Requiring Vaccinations, Remote Instruction, Teacher Accommodations, Summer School and “Catching Up”

  1. Kenneth Karcinell

    Throughout the year since The Pandemic turned everything upside down, I and many others on this blog have called for an anticipatory strategy to compensate for all the lost hours of education that our kids have missed. Now it is time to put one’s money where one’s mouth is. Aside from the Xmas, and Easter Break, serious consideration must be given to continuing school for all the other holidays. Additionally, Summer School for this coming summer should be available to all who would want to attend. It should not be seen as a punishment as it has traditionally been for students who failed. during the regular school year. It’s selling point to parents should be: Get your child to Summer School, it’s a good thing!
    On another note, with regard to Specialized HS’s, we have all known for years and years, that many more of our minority kids then those few who had been accepted into freshman years @ any of the four specialized High Schools, were worthy of acceptance as well.So what is the solution?For sure that solution is not to castigate or agitate racial ethnics over available seats. The answer is to make more Specialized HSs. Given that there are already 4 such schools, I would propose an addition of at least four more “Satellite Schools” as appendages to each of the pre-existing schools.While this won’t fully address the issue, it is a first step of a potential multi vehicular approach going forward..


  2. A great discussion of rather pertinent issues. It shows how many things we need to address and the uncertainty in answering questions about them. You said Covid19 turned things upside down which hits our situation on the head. So much of what we need has been affected by this Pandemic. One of our greatest needs is for human company and the pandemic caused the closure of many of the things which allow people to meet and be in the company of others. Restaurants which I used to think were there just to get us fat now appear as a great way to be in spaces where there are others.
    For schools and teachers I hope we can solve the problems which we have encountered, and also that covid does not give too many variants. It is my hope, and I feel sure of many others, that this thing can be defeated.


  3. Carol Fineberg

    Please change my email address to carol.fineberg@gmail.comThank you very much.  

    Dr. Carol FinebergArts and Education Consultant


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