De Blasio Agrees to Delay School Reopening to Avoid Teacher Strike

Kevyn Bowles, principal of New Bridges Elementary, speaks while Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York, during a news conference ahead of schools reopening amid the coronavirus outbreak in the Brooklyn, N.Y., August 19, 2020. (Jeenah Moon/Reuters)

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday that he has reached a deal with the city’s teachers unions to delay the start of the school year by more than a week, narrowly avoiding the threat of a teacher strike.

“There is nothing more precious than taking care of the children of New York City,” de Blasio said at a press conference with union leaders. “Resolution has been found in a constructive spirit. We’ve come to an agreement to move forward.”

The first day of classes for New York City, the largest school district in the country responsible for teaching 1.1 million students, was scheduled to be September 10 but classes will now begin September 21 to allow schools to implement safety measures to guard against the coronavirus.

The city’s largest teacher’s union threatened last month to go on strike unless the city’s education department complied with a list of safety demands before public schools reopen for in-person classes, including that every person who enters a school building be tested for coronavirus.

The president of the powerful United Federation of Teachers union, which represents 75,000 of the city’s teachers, said the union is prepared to strike if schools open before meeting its demands, which also include implementing one-way lines in hallways and providing schools with N95 face masks and other personal protective equipment.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew warned that allowing schools to open before the union’s conditions were met could end up being “one of the biggest debacles in the history of the city.”

“What we’ve agreed to is to make sure that the health measures are in place, to make sure there is time for the appropriate preparation for our educators, to make sure that we can have the smoothest beginning of the school year,” de Blasio said.

Mulgrew said Tuesday that he supports de Blasio’s plan, which includes monthly coronavirus testing for students and school staff.

“I can say to you now … New York City’s public school system has the … greatest safeguards of any school system in the United States of America,” the union head said.

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