NYC Mayor Furloughs Himself, Staff Over COVID Budget Woes; Schools Start Remote Orientation – NBC New York

What to Know

  • New York City’s already delayed school year began Wednesday with the start of a three-day remote orientation, a soft opening that will serve as a prologue to the scheduled hybrid learning start on Monday
  • 42% of NYC students have opted for all-remote; that number has climbed 15 percentage points in two weeks and the city is now saying it doesn’t have enough staff to give all remote kids “live” or “synchronous” instruction
  • Unions representing teachers and principals say NYC schools don’t have the personnel — or the COVID safety measures — to pull off the hybrid learning model, either. More protests are planned for Wednesday

Mayor Bill de Blasio is furloughing his City Hall staff, including himself.

The measure, announced Wednesday, is a way to save money due to the budget constraints brought on by the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

Starting Oct. 1, through March, every mayoral office employee — nearly 500 individuals — will have to take an unpaid, weeklong (five days) furlough at some point, de Blasio said.

“This is a step you never want to see,” the mayor said, as he highlighted the hard work of his staff particularly during the pandemic. However, he stressed the decision is necessary and will bring some financial savings to the city — all the while urging the federal government once again for direct financial assistance.

The news comes as New York City’s already delayed school year launched its remote start Wednesday, a soft opening intended to serve as a prologue to next week’s in-person return for more than a half-million students.

NBC New York’s Katherine Creag reports.

Yet the number of those requesting all-remote has only gone up recently. As of the last update, 42 percent of New York City students have opted to go all-remote. That’s up 15 percentage points in two weeks. Despite promising for weeks that every student would get “live” or “synchronous” instruction from remote teachers, the city admitted Wednesday it doesn’t have sufficient personnel to pull that off.

The mayor said they’ll make adjustments as they can. Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said “asynchronous” or prerecorded instruction can be strong, too.

The principals’ union, Council of School Supervisors & Administrators, said that announcement “is obviously an attempt to deal with the staffing crisis” it has been warning about for months.

While CSA President Mark Cannizzaro said in a statement the current climate requires increased focus on in-person learning for safety reasons, the remote guidance change “will not solve the most glaring, urgent problem: far too many schools still do not have enough teachers for in-person learning when school buildings reopen for students on Monday.”

More protests among educators are planned for Wednesday.

Daily Percentage of Positive Tests by New York Region

With all of New York state in some phase of reopening, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is shifting his focus to monitoring test results on a daily basis across each region to identify potential hotspots before they emerge. Here’s the latest tracking data by region. For the latest county-level results statewide, click here

The 3-day transitional start of the fall school year begins as one school, PS 139 in Ditmas Park, had to be shut down for at least 24 hours after a second COVID case was confirmed among educational staff in a four-day span. That is the same school where teachers staged a protest on Monday, placing desks outside the building to call attention to what they say are unsafe conditions inside.

De Blasio on Tuesday suggested the outdoor demonstrations are familiar union tactics. When asked about the Council of School Supervisors & Administrators’ complaints that there are 10,000 teachers needed to cover both in-classroom and remote learning, he said, “I have never met a manager that didn’t want a bigger budget and more personnel.”

Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, questioned both staffing levels and coronavirus safety.

With less than two weeks before students in the largest school district in the country return to in-person learning, two New York City school employees have tested positive for COVID-19 and parents are getting a first look at the safety protocols that have been implemented to keep kids safe from COVID-19. NBC New York’s Katherine Creag reports.

“Right now we still don’t have a teacher for every classroom for students who come in,” Mulgrew said Tuesday on TV station NY1. “We still don’t know if all the schools are being cleaned and disinfected on a daily basis because custodians have not been given all the proper equipment to do those things.”

The mayor did admit that it is possible the city will have to find more teachers by the time hybrid learning begins, acknowledging that he may have to add more than the additional 2,000 staff he promised the unions this week.

“We will compare notes, if there are still some gaps we will take another step,” said de Blasio.

The mayor and chancellor also said they will continue to make adjustments as the time goes on. Meanwhile, concerns abound over COVID cases already reported.

New York City public school teachers are holding a “Not Until It’s Safe” day of action on Monday to protest what they say are unsafe conditions at school buildings. NBC New York’s Katherine Creag reports.

At least 56 city schools have had one or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 among staff, the city’s Department of Education announced Tuesday. Click here to see the full list of affected schools.

The city is also still scrambling to make fixes at other schools across the five boroughs. At P.S. 209 in the Bronx, teachers stayed outside on Tuesday because the ventilation system isn’t working.

“There has been no solution yet, so we decided today to start working outside in hopes this will be fixed before our students come on Monday,” said teacher Alyson Bamford.

To protest school reopenings, teachers took a day of action to prove their concern, Andrew Siff reports.

There is no fix coming for another school in Manhattan, which has been deemed unsafe for in-person return. The Martin Luther King Junior Educational Complex on the Upper West Side, a huge school with 6,000 students, won’t be opening Monday and students just learned Wednesday where they’ll have to attend school.

Junior Crisostomo, a high school senior at MLK, says the change is too sudden. He’s among at least 800 students from several schools (including Maxine Greene High School for Imaginative Inquiry, the High School for Law, Advocacy and Community Justice, and Manhattan/Hunter Science High School) who were told they can either opt to learn remotely or commute to a school building downtown.

For many students commuting from places like the Bronx, a trip to Borough of Manhattan Community College would add likely around a half-hour both ways.

Other schools that are part of the complex — including Grades 9-12 of the Special Music School, the Urban Assembly School for Media Studies, and the High School of Arts and Technology — will use Success Academy space in other DOE buildings, according to education officials.

“We’ve been clear from the beginning that if a building or classroom was not safe, we would not use it. While the vast majority of our classrooms and nearly all of our buildings will be ready to serve children and staff on September 21, we have found alternative space for the schools located on the Martin Luther King, Jr. campus,” the city’s DOE said in a statement. “All schools will be accommodated and we have found suitable, safe and convenient options for these school communities to help start their year strong.”

The city says it plans to do random testing of students and staff for the virus starting on Oct. 1. The mayor said Monday that a COVID-19 “situation room” would be set up to respond swiftly to school coronavirus cases.