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NYC is not ready to open schools – It’s not just about testing

August 26, 2020 am31 10:08 am

Mayor de Blasio insists schools will open for students September 10.

The UFT says not so fast.

The CSA (principals union) has called for a remote opening.

The UFT wants to open, but only if a safety checklist gets met.


We have a responsibility to try to reopen school buildings because the infection rate in New York City is so low.

OK, but…

I mean I would rather teach in a classroom than in a Zoom. It’s not even a close call. Face to face teaching is actual teaching. Zoom is a pale imitation.

But a “responsibility to reopen”? I don’t know. I think we met the “responsibility to try” and it didn’t work.

We had a “responsibility to try”, we did try,  and it did not work.

There are limits. When the UFT proposed “blended learning” it sounded tricky. After working with schedules for weeks, it was pretty clearly a mess. I am talking about programmers, schedulers. Not politicians. Not union officials.

We tried. Blended will not work.

Today? Blended learning creates more questions than answers. Who is teaching the students when they are at home? How do we maintain continuity if different parts (cohorts) in the same class get different in-person lessons? How do we maintain similar content for some classes that are occasionally in person (blended) and some that are fully remote? How do we prepare lessons that are remote for some students and in person for others?

These questions are exhausting. All-remote in the Spring was exhausting for teachers. Some nearly collapsed. But this intricate dance will be far more taxing. I’m seeing bad signs that the actual amount of preparation necessary (hours, not number of classes) will go through the roof, as many teachers will have to nearly double their preparation.

How much content are we teaching?  We need an answer for either blended, or for remote. Although blended is a bigger concern, because we will probably get less done.

What happened to State 3 – 8 testing for 2020-21? To the regents? To the AP exams? How are we planning without knowing those answers?

Lunch was a problem. Someone proposed “Instructional Lunch”. Having kids remove masks, in the same classroom that everyone will be in the rest of the day, and eat. And, we hope, they will not talk. How is that safe?

We tried. Lunch will not work. 

“Each school community knows its own school best.”

Planning was devolved to 1800+ individual schools, individual principals. Every aspect of planning was devolved. DoE Central retained the right to say no, but did not retain any planning obligations. They did retain obligations to deal with ventilation and supply PPE – two promises that as of today are unkept.

Detailed entry plans are lacking. Schedules do not specify who is dealing with blended kids on remote days. Teachers do not have space to do their remote teaching while in school. There are not even plans to pick up lunch trash. There are not plans to deal with kids who come on the wrong day. There are not plans to ensure hands are frequently cleaned. There are not plans for social distancing in stairwells, hallways, bathrooms… There are not plans for dismissal.

We tried. Leaving 1800 principals to make 1800 plans will not work.

So Mulgrew has his Harvard Checklist. It’s all good stuff. I don’t think the mayor can meet it, even if he tried, in just two weeks.

And if the City does not do the stuff on Mulgrew’s Harvard Checklist to make the school’s safe, I will support the measures the UFT proposes, and urge others to do so. If we take action, we take action together. Including, if we go out, we go out together.

But we have been trying on safety. It does not look like the Mayor will make the schools safe.

We have been trying. As of today the Mayor’s safety plan is not adequate.

But even if the Mayor’s safety plan were adequate:

  • Blended will not work.
  • Lunch will not work.
  • Leaving 1800 principals to make 1800 plans will not work.
2 Comments leave one →
  1. Samuel Noel permalink
    August 26, 2020 am31 10:57 am 10:57 am

    Excellent points as usual! With only 13 days to go before teachers return, we’re headed towards a train wreck. Ordinarily, I would have been prepared by now for the new semester. Instead, I have no idea what I’m going to teach and to whom. Precious time was wasted in June giving kids busy work to fill up the suspended Regents exams. We should have been planning for the fall and improving remote learning. Everyone knew that this was coming in one form or another.

    Instead, we get to go back and not only wing it, we now have to learn health protocols to keep students and staff safe (if that’s even possible). What does instruction even look like? The Workshop model, “turn and talk,” “pair and share,” etc. can’t happen with kids 6 feet away from each other. How do we collect work for assessments? Will there be any computers in the classroom? My school distributed all of its laptops and iPads to kids in March. Is the broke DOE going to buy new ones as they draw up the layoff list which could be implemented in 5 weeks? Even if layoffs are averted, you can bet that a significant number of educators will either retire, take leaves, or resign. Those left will have to service both in-class and remote learning students.

    And the only email I have from the DOE is a reminder of MOSL workshops we have to take before school starts.

    • August 26, 2020 pm31 5:55 pm 5:55 pm

      I’m just watching us inch towards disaster, with no will to stop the forward motion.

      I have some productive ideas for remote – and my colleagues have organized informal PD on some of the available tech.

      But the logistics of blended? The pedagogy? There’s nothing.

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