What It Would Take for N.Y.C. Schools to Fully Reopen This Fall

May 17, 2021 · 192 comments
Uilleam Uallas (Scotland)
A Department of Education that is semi functioning
Dana L (Brooklyn)
I feel like the same arguments have been going on for months with nothing done. There really needs to be some solid leadership between the DOE and the city. Firm plans for the fall should be released by end of June and not a few weeks/days before opening in the fall. Air circulation/improved ventilation in schools should have been done months ago. Give parents, teachers a firm game plan and time to adjust. Individual school leadership should step it up too and communicate every step of the way. My kids are my priority and I’ve been home with them since March of 20. Many parents (especially mothers) who have been out of work and asked to return to employment need to have faith in a solid and safe full time reopening in the fall. Teachers are the lifeblood of a school and should be treated better. Personally I’d prefer if all teachers and adult staff be required to vaccinate (unless medical reasons) to return to in person in the fall. They would be better protected and give parents piece of mind. Mask mandates should stick around a while longer too. Many kids are young and can’t vaccinate yet.
Murrow Parent (Brooklyn)
Edward R. Murrow presents many logistical issues for in-person school. 1. It’s huge. 2. It has questionable ventilation. 3. Moving to a cohort model would eliminate so much of what is unique about it (all the electives). 4. It is in draws from areas that had very high Covid rates. 5. For a school of 4000 to switch to in-person for real, from full remote would be Herculean. 6. Return to 1-3 because the whole population could not have been vaccinated fully until the end of the school year. The teachers I spoke to at the beginning of the year were fearful for themselves and also for our kids. Schools, like Murrow, were failed by the mayor. We have no advisory. There was no planning that would allow for in-person outdoor meet-ups. It must be especially hard for 9th and 10th graders. But some lives must have been saved because the Murrow community was home, long covid prevented, a ripple effect of cases. It’s agony that many students suffered or are suffering. But it’s not as simple as those darn teachers wouldn’t show up. It’s far, far more complex. And, I’m thankful that they protected themselves and our kids during some of the most lethal months of this year. Could they have done teacher in the room in-person? Maybe. In an ideal world the schools would have identified students who were struggling the most with remote and then found a way to serve them in person. But our system isn’t built for creative interventions right now, especially at giant traditional schools like Murrow
McGloin (Brooklyn)
Teaching from home is MORE DIFFICULT than teaching in school. We aren't Teaching from home (half of the time) because it's easier. We are doing it to save lives. Over a year ago I was being called an "alarmist" because I was saying that our refusal to actually shut down the economy would kill hundreds of thousands of people. 580,000 dead Americans prove that we the alarmista were correct, and all of the rosey scenario people were wrong. Two days ago, I said this was a political decision, not based on the real science. Now the second largest nursing union agrees with me. We have no idea what will happen in September, because we keep reopening 3 months too early, then having to close again.
nyer4life (nyc)
Teachers and kids that can't or won't go to "in person" school are a special population. Put them in D75. Kids and teachers who can do in person school in accord with CDC guidelines should. If the city ends up with more internet teachers than is necessary, put the unnecessary ones on furlough. Our kids are too important for this clown show of competing needs. Also, use federal pandemic relief money to rent temporary office space, storefronts, etc to allow for appropriate social distances. As a bonus, you'll revive commercial real estate. 1 year variances can be issued around most school issues. Write it off as a class trip.
NYC BD (New York, NY)
Schools must re-open fully this fall. Non-negotiable. Though frustrating, I somewhat understand why some teachers aren’t back this year as some made childcare and other plans assuming they are home for the year and can’t pivot now. But any teacher who doesn’t return in the fall is truant and out of a job. Any teacher who is skeptical is not smart enough to teach my children. If all teachers are back then parents have no excuse. We need all teachers in the classroom optimizing teacher/student ratios so don’t waste teachers on those who refuse to return. They can home school or move. These parents will be denying their children their education. And I’m sure they will be the same ones complaining about equity when their kid doesn’t get into Stuyvesant. This is not hard. And again, it is non-negotiable. Make it happen and let’s focus on real problems.
Ifid (NY)
Teachers should have the self-respect and responsibility to assume they are as vital as front-line workers. How many doctors, nurses, or firefighters can ask for a "medical accommodation?" It's the most absurd thing I've ever heard of. If there was ever a case to abolish the teachers unions this is it. It's a shame that DeBlasio was too cowardly to stand up to the union on this issue, but I suppose his track record on education has been consistently poor.
Ma (Atl)
What will it take to open schools in the fall? Well, they should have opened last fall, but the only thing that I can see at this point is the dissolution of the teachers union's hold on local government, new oversight of school boards that have far too much power, and the firing of teachers that cannot teach. Those that cannot receive a vaccine, for whatever reason, should be able to go to school and teach or quit. I'm sorry, but I've had enough of those that want to continue using the pandemic, which is over, as their excuse to get paid for nothing. Sorry, but unions have eliminated empathy.
Michael Browder (Chamonix, France)
@Ma Sorry, but people like you have eliminated empathy. Absolutely no concern for the contamination of adults last year. Wow. What a statement.
Josh R (Brooklyn)
Teachers can't get kids to do their homework. Do they think kids will remember to get vaccinated. Parents should stop yelling at the UFT and yell at fellow PARENTS to get the kids vaccinated. Just work for September 2021 and put this all in the past.
“Queens high school principal asks parents to keep their children learning from home, despite the new opt in period. Worth acknowledging principals across grade levels asked parents to do the same last summer, one of many reasons why the opt in rate was low” Eliza Shapiro on Twitter 3/25/21
Mal Stone (New York)
After reading these comments, I can only gather that the hatred toward teachers must stem from a traumatic experience with a teacher when they were younger.
Mention of “only” 50k kids opting in for zoom in a room. NO mention of the letters sent out by HS principals encouraging parents not to opt in (retweeted by this author on Twitter on 3/25/21). Ace reporting, there.
Gabrielle (NYC)
If , next year, there's no full-time school with after school, I will have to move out of the city. I already feel selfish for staying here, like I've denied my kids an education this year. My worry is that this is a disadvantage they will never be able to overcome. My family lives upstate in a town where they've had regular in-person school for months. Also people I know in various suburbs have their kids attending full-time. Our mayor needs to treat this like the crisis it is.
Susan McAulay (Brooklyn, NY)
The problem is entitled parents who forget that teachers are human beings, some of whom have outstanding medical conditions. Especially for high schools, which were already not well suited for the plan that was put in place, did not have enough teachers to man the various classes that high school kids need to take; the kids are not in nice little cohorts. Then so many kids that were remote that logistics were impossible. Parents were hands off, not wanting to even look at junior's grades....
liz (nyc)
@Susan McAulay Teachers are front line workers too - kids' education matter and I don't understand why this isn't a priority. Those that do not want to be in-person or vaccinate should be let go. Remote teaching is a disservice to kids and further deepens existing inequalities. The data shows teachers are safe, why are public school teachers in the most segregated school system still 1/3 at home and expecting to stay at home next year despite vaccines?
Debbie (Brooklyn)
Where it is mentioned that CDC 3 feet social distancing will be the barrier to kids going back to in-person school full time? My daughter is in an elementary school ICT class, with 19 kids, and they had to move to the gym to accommodate distancing and be able to attend 5 days a week. The school said the gym is a temporary solution. What happens when the other 8 kids come back presumably in the fall? UFT and AFT leadership says they want all kids back full time in person but they will not be able to with that distancing and clearly there is no additional space in NYC. They know this and they are playing both sides.
Reminds me of the stepmother in Cinderella. “I said, IF”
marlene (Brooklyn)
Hopefully once Pfizer's vaccination is fully FDA approved not only will SUNY/CUNY require students to be vaccinated but this will become part of NYS/NYC mandate for schools as well, just like other vaccinations. It's unclear to me why only students need to be vaccinated (upon full FDA approval) why not their educators as well, unless of course there is an extreme medical circumstance. With regard to remote learning it is currently a mess at most schools, especially HS level, where it varies so widely school to school with no overarching requirements or standards. A HS student at one school has a widely different experience from another despite being in the same grade. If remote must continue for the upcoming school year for any students or teachers with accommodations PLEASE centralize it and take that burden off individual schools and principals. Let them focus on 5 day a week in person education. The Mayor and DOE need to give them guidance ASAP so they can use these last few weeks of school to actually plan. And not have to spend all summer coming up with different scenarios and then adjusting plans in September. So unfair to all.
Lisa (New York)
This is ridiculous. Open the schools fully and move on. I’ve been working in person since November and with masks and portable air purifiers work never became a super spreader event. I kept my kids remote this school year because the in person schooling for both of my kids schools sounded like child abuse with kids either forced to learn while in school on a laptop or teachers screaming at the students not to get anywhere near each other on the two days a week they’d be there. My kids are more in danger from aggressive NY drivers than they are at risk of getting severe COVID. Parents so Scared of sending their kids to school van home school. Teachers who don’t want to get vaccinated and don’t want to return can get another job. To deny an entire generation an in person education due to fear is selfish, abusive and making the vast inequalities of our country almost insurmountable. Open the schools. To continue on the path we are currently on should be called what it is: child neglect and abuse.
Jeanne (NYC)
New York City should be ashamed of itself, I’m one of the parents who has “opted out” for my highschooler to stay remote but that’s only because it’s a false choice, his choice is between zoom and zoom- zoom in a room or zoom at home. He’s fully vaccinated, our whole family is fully vaccinated and this whole thing is a travesty. There’s no excuse for not letting vaccinated kids back in school full-time with their teachers who are vaccinated, but because New York City may as well be Alice in Wonderland, they’re not allowed to ask their educators or the students if they’re vaccinated—- so it doesn’t matter if they’re vaccinated, And my kid would be zooming in a room with substitute teachers, fully masked all day and keeping 6 feet from his other students and teachers, as if vaccination status has absolutely no bearing on whether he should be back in school. I trust the government and the drug companies to make this vaccine— but I don’t trust the city school system or the union to do the right thing, it’s an embarrassment to the city and I wish my kid was graduating from high school this year so we could get away from this travesty as quickly as possible. So shameful. 
H Silk (Murfreesboro,TN)
For heaven's sake get teachers vaccinated and get kids back into school. This is a disgrace.
@H Silk the first part already happened (NYC teachers eligible since 1/11/21) So now the goal posts have moved: Now it’s “the kids have to be vaccinated.”
David J. Krupp (Queens, NY)
All teachers and staff in all schools should be required to be vaccinated!
dtrain1027 (Boston, Ma)
The basic question is do the benefits of ongoing covid interventions/restrictions/protocols in NYC schools outweigh the downsides. This is not a static calculation...it changes as the baseline risk plummets. The baseline risk does not have to get to zero, and in fact almost never gets to zero, for the calculation to fundamentally change. With covid, this debate was not possible because virtue and political affiliation was attributed to these interventions, which clouds thinking. We have lost the ability to properly communicate relative risk during this pandemic which leads to fear. Data from countries across the world makes it clear that we are underestimating the harms of keeping kids out of school & overplaying the risk to children and their role in transmission. There is no perfect, risk free solution but we can't wait until covid is eradicated to have in person school.
Solutions are possible: My child goes to a public charter school. They have managed to run a superb online program with incredibly engaged teachers and administators. Information has been timely, open and honest troughout the pandemic. In the fall the school will open for full in person schooling (pending any regulatory restrictions) and staff members at the school will be vaccinated. Too many kids have paid a too high or a price for this pandemic already. Now when the vaccine is available to everyone, schools have to open for ALL kids...along with businesses, subways, and other instituions that are already open. Many other countries put children first, it's time for us to not leave them any further behind.
Andrea (Durham, NC)
As a teacher I have a strong interest in this conversation and have read nearly all the comments here, mostly bashing teachers for not working on-site full-time (as if this is an option for all teachers or as if we have any degree of control). Also need to mention that many states do not have teacher unions, hence the lower salary and benefits of many who choose this profession. I'd like to point out that most of the reopening discussion is based on OLD and incomplete data - that younger children don't get Covid or if they do, have minimal symptoms. I refer readers to the NPR article from May 3 which states that "Children now account for 22% of new Covid cases." This is where the variants will come in; and up to now there is no vaccine for children younger than 12 which is the entire elementary school population. Will vaccinated teachers be immune to these new variants they will undoubtedly be exposed to in crowded classrooms filled with children? What does the science say? By the way, I read this article on my 15 minute "lunch break" at my desk from which I teach from home. Oh, time to go -- three more classes to teach, before grading student work, planning for upcoming lessons, emailing parents, and attending two mandatory "after hours" meetings. (School starts at 7:30 am).
22 percent of a much smaller number isn’t a drastic increase (if any at all). As the vaccines reduce case counts in older populations of course kids are going to be a larger percentage of them.
Andrea (Durham, NC)
@KC Yes KC, it is true that kids are a larger percentage with more older folks getting vaccines. However, if you read the article, that percentage has gone from 3% to 22% of cases in a year. In one recent week alone, 71,649 out of 319,601 positive cases were children. Who have Covid. Additionally, there's a paucity of "standardized" data which has been an issue from the beginning of this pandemic. The point here is that children DO get Covid, some severely, and they do pass it on to adults. And the numbers are increasing due to the variants and more students in schools. Just check out the article.
Gwen (NYC)
@Andrea The CDC says that the vaccines work well against the variants. So many parents have been supportive of teachers throughout the pandemic. But that support is evaporating fast when unions continue to hold fast to outdated demands that no longer apply in the current environment. The world is moving on and schools need to move with it.
MsEquitable (Bayside,NY)
Schools should be open full-time. Remote kids needs to be centralized. We need our 1 hour back from last year and we need extended hours so parents can get back to work. Vaccines are available, get them if you wish and it should be a personal choice. Kid need socialization and we need to raise the bar with regards to academics. This needs to start in Kinder not middle school and blaming a test.
MJ (Ohio)
Vaccines are available for everyone over age 12. Teachers were front of the line. If you’re a teacher and didn’t one that’s on you and it’s time to find another line of work. Vaccines are piling up in this country for lack of arms to put them in. By September if you or your 12 year old kid are not vaccinated then again that’s on you. Our middle class suburban school system in OH was open all year with in person classes. Mandatory masks. Remote was available if required/requested by the family. Few cases of COVID19. No wide spread outbreaks and that was before vaccines. It seems that the school systems most likely to be closed were inner city ones full of kids from families that could least afford a computer and an adult out of work to stay home and supervise kids. These kids more than most need to be back in school in order to learn and so their parents can get back to work. The whole long term remote learning thing has been a disaster for these kids education.
Mike (California)
I would like to see a firm end to "remote teaching." That works for middle-class white students and Asian-American students, but does not work for most minority students, who too rarely stay with the remote learning, in part because of poor internet connections or family situations.. If remote learning continues, minority students will fall further behind--with an impact of their earnings for the rest of their lives.
Nadia (NYC)
Schools should be opened today. In person attendance should be compulsory starting in the fall, barring a (stringent) medical reason. And yet... we are discussing IF it will even happen as we eat and drink indoors in restaurants and bars, work out, go to the movies, travel on airplanes, and buy Broadway theater tickets come fall. This speaks to our short-sightedness and skewed priorities.
Objectively Subjective (Utopia’s Shadow)
Vaccines are available for all teachers. If they have a genuine medical reason why they cannot be vaccinated, which should be an incredibly small number of teachers, then perhaps accommodations can be made for them until all students are eligible to be vaccinated. That should be October. And if those teachers still can’t work, there is always SS disability.
Alex (Holyoke)
If a majority-minority old east coast city like Holyoke can get back to school so can NYC. The city listened to parents, installed industrial Carrier air filtration units in 100 year old buildings using CAREs funding, promoted masks as barriers etc. Spend some time and effort communicating at the individual school level and make returning a reality.
rab (Upstate NY)
The same parents complaining about the restrictive safety protocols in schools would be the first to get their lawyer on speed dial if infected by a school related transmission.
Fintan (CA)
Well, once again, the party that says its for “freedom” is against it in practice. They will make the false equivalence that they were compelled to wear masks when it was necessary for public health — and of course there are those who will deny that clear, scientific fact — but intellectual honesty does not seem to be a hallmark of the right at the moment. Based on the behavior of the leader they promote, I find MAGA hats both ridiculous and offensive, but I support the right for people to wear them since it does no harm to others.
dtrain1027 (Boston, Ma)
From the moment Trump foolishly bellowed "open all the schools" last summer, the teachers' unions and like minded urban school boards decided that "opposing Trump" was more important than "following the science". Public health experts told us many months ago that schools were reasonably safe and the societal cost of keeping schools closed outweighed the benefit. Schoolchildren are not at risk and vaccinated teachers are not at risk. I mean “not at risk” the same way I would mean I am not at risk of dying as I drive to work, or my child is not at risk of getting kidnapped on his way to school i.e., it is so unlikely that it doesn’t paralyze me into fearful inaction, but I do take reasonable safety precautions for both. Despite this public health consensus, many areas of the country clung to the "schools aren't safe" mantra with a near religious fervor. This has done great harm to the highest need schoolchildren in urban public schools. Our policy decision to close school buildings for over a year is a form of academic apartheid, and will be seen as one of the worst failures of our covid response.
Mike (California)
"Teachers have been eligible for the vaccine since January, and well over half have been vaccinated." That statement in this article suggests that a substantial proportion of teachers have decided that they will not receive the vaccine. How can these teachers instruct their student in critical reading, distinguishing fact-based reporting from rumor and speculation, when those same teachers cannot free themselves from believing rumors and scary stories about the virus? What is more, teachers should inculcate in their students a sense of their individual responsibility toward others in the society. Some of these teachers are perfectly willing to carry the virus to their students, rather than to receive the vaccine. What has happened to the high standards of the teaching profession?
Brooklyn Writer (New York)
One of my siblings working in the NY school system took medical leave to care for her child who's not able to be fully in the classroom because other teachers are on leave. It's insane. Teachers are essential workers. They were among the first to be vaccinated. They can't literally phone it in from their bedrooms. If they refuse to go back, they should be fired.
heinrichz (brooklyn)
It’s all about retrofitting proper ventilation to the buildings. Nothing can happen without that and we must make that investment now.
Jackson (Virginia)
@heinrichz The Feds have given schools millions to do that.
Elizabeth Darcy (Monroe)
It’s criminal that our children are being denied an education. Teachers elbowed their way to the front of the vaccination line. They should be required to return to school , no exceptions.
Zach (FL)
@Elizabeth Darcy Teachers aren't the enemy.
Teacher (Brooklyn)
If all school staff have access to vaccines why do I work at a high school where 8 assistant principals and 80 plus teachers are still on accommodation? The city and the union should have mandated that all return to building. I am so grateful to be a member of a union but not so much these past few months.
Matt (Brooklyn)
@Teacher right with you there. I bet most of our in-person colleagues agree with us!
Matt (Brooklyn)
As an in-person high school teacher I am really skeptical of some of the reasons why parents keep their kids in all remote classes. I just got an email from a parent asking that her son be excused from class because the family is traveling to a place with spotty wifi. This is the second such email I've received in two weeks. Are they really that worried about covid? Or just incredibly entitled?
Eric (NY)
I know of many teachers who are obese. While schools try to promote "healthy eating " via the food served to them at lunch time. Maybe schools need to do the same with their staff members. ( I have been teaching for 22 years. And a healthy body and mind are essential for effective teaching. )
@Eric I know of many teachers who are ignorant and intolerant (and also make comments that have nothing to do with the content of an article, but leap at any opportunity to express their petty, spiteful views). I have been teaching for 13 years. And kindness and empathy are essential for effective teaching.
Samuel (Brooklyn)
@Eric Many Americans of all walks of life are obese. That isn't a teacher problem, that is a society problem.
Jessica (New York, NY)
@Eric With all the issues on the table to discuss and debate, you choose to fat shame your colleagues?
bronxite (nyc)
All students should go to a school with in-person teaching staff. Vaccinations are available for anyone 16 and over all over the city without appointments. Students have been deprived of a public school education. This lack of an education will reverberate for years to come. It is patently unfair to everyone. If parents don't want their child in school, home school them with an approved curriculum. Children and teens need life experience, i.e. showing up on time, paying attention in class, discussions, parent teacher conferences, etc. Generations of students and teachers have followed this protocol. Get vaccinated New York!!
12 now, as of last Thursday. So middle schoolers will be fully vaccinated by Sept
Andrea (Durham, NC)
@M What about our youngest students? Ages 3 - 11? That's pre-school and elementary. No vaccines for them? They get covid too.
@M 6th graders in NYC will still be 11 years old at the start of the year, so only ⅔ of the MS pop has the potential to be fully vaccinated, and it will be a lot less than that.
Karen (California)
I am a high school teacher. I voluntarily returned to the classroom a month ago. (We are operating ay just 12 students in a class to maintain distancing ). I am fully vaccinated and, honestly, resent the possibility that I may be be forced back into the classroom in the fall with students who are allowed to not be vaccinated. Schools require vaccination for measles, mumps, tetanus, etc - diseases far less deadly or less imminent than Covid. Why should teachers be forced to put their lives at risk because an exception is being made for the most important vaccine of them all n these times? And why should other students be put at risk for those who refuse to get the vaccine,? Yes I am vaccinated but still does not mean that I, or other vaccinated teachers or students, want to be in a crowded classroom with unvaccinated students.
@Karen Why should students—who are at incredibly low risk of serious illness from COVID—have to get vaccinated to make a fully vaccinated adult feel safe? And for the record, I am a teacher too who is back in the classroom.
Karen (California)
It’s called being thoughtful of others. There are also breakthrough cases. Do I trust the vaccine overall? Yes- do I want to put it to the test by surrounding myself with many unvaccinated students in a small room? No. Getting vaccinated is about thinking about others and the public good. If students are required to have other vaccines, also at very low risk, why is covid - more dangerous to all of us- the exception? Thx for your support of teachers- so many of you hate us- I’ve been a teacher for 30 years- the work is grueling but we do it for the love of knowledge, learning and to give students the best chance of success as adults we can. Why am I expendable? Why is my sense of safety unimportant? What do you do for a living?
Kids who aren’t vaccinated should remain masked of course. I agree they should be mandated and they’re going to have issues in the middle and high schools I bet requiring masks for vaccinated 12-14 year olds because others won’t.
It is obvious (Oakland,ca)
Just to inject a more under the radar consideration: no doubt many readers here recall the article reporting on a poll done of Dem vs. Repub understanding of how likely someone who contracts Covid is to be hospitalized. The results were somewhere in the 2.5 (Dem) to 1 (Repub). Somewhere in these medical waivers this misperception is playing a role. Of course, if you think that being exposed to the virus puts you on the fast track to a ventilator, why would you willingly expose yourself? I notice, too, there's an article in the NYT this a.m. titled "They're vaccinated and keeping their masks on, maybe forever." I'm not saying that there aren't some people with valid medical concerns, but that these overblown concepts of risk are playing an outsized role. The San Francisco PSD, at last count, had at least 300 medical waivers for Fall instruction in person. And this in a city with the lowest case and death rate of all large cities in the US. And, yes, also with a very noisy and robust teacher's union.
Betti (New York)
@It is obvious I blame the media and a largely ignorant population who misunderstand/misinterpret scientific data. Covid IS devastating, but now we not only have safe and effective vaccines, but effective treatments like monoclonal antibodies, and more to come as pharmaceutical manufacturers ramp up their pipelines to tackle this disease. As a liberal who believes and works in science (fully vaxxed, masks indoors), I can no longer stomach the constant, negative, fear inducing reporting around Covid. Perfectly sane, educated friends have become virtual hermits, unable to leave their homes or enjoy life because instead of going for a nice walk outdoors, they have their noses stuck to their TV or phone screens, listening to Covid horror stories. I for one no longer watch CNN or MSNBC - they’ve become too crazy- and I wouldn’t dream of watching FOX! Instead I watch PBS Newshour, BBC America or other European news networks. Im done. Going to book tickets on Delta Covid free flights to Europe in the late fall and spend 6 weeks with friends and family. Life must go on.
Matt (Brooklyn)
High school teacher here. Remote education is an utter failure - we never got proper training for it, and students never got the proper devices, wifi, or were held accountable for basic things like being present with cameras on. Anything less than full in-person education in the fall would be an epic disaster. How could NYC have gyms, theaters, bars, and restaurants open but not schools? The UFT stance on medical accommodations and hybrid education made sense pre-vaccine but not anymore. I'll find a different job if we're not 100% in person in the fall.
Julie (CA)
@Matt Thank you for being an advocate for in-person learning. As a teacher, your opinion is incredibly valuable and we all know that remote education for most has been a total disaster! We need teachers like you in the profession who care about kids and education!! There is zero reason schools should not be 100% in-person in the fall.
spk (nyc)
If the teachers were healthy, vaccinations would solve this problem. But the US is a very unwell country, with tens of millions of Americans diagnosed with chronic and autoimmune diseases that compromise the immune system and are treated with heavy immune-suppressant drugs (that defy vaccination benefits). We’re the fast-food nation, with toxic overload in our water and air. The human body hasn’t evolved to withstand the onslaught of inflammatory food, hourly stress, low wages, precarious lives. This is why the only salvation for this country is that evil democratic socialist ideology that supports the daily lives of workers.
Rob (NYC)
Again, kids aren’t impacted by this. This tertiary argument; but they could unwittingly catch this and pass it onto someone else more at risk who isn’t vaccinated simply doesn’t hold up to logic. That person, if at risk, would have had every opportunity to get vaccinated. We’re impacting the children’s future for a non-issue. No, kids don’t need vaccinations. They don’t need masks. It’s becoming an endemic virus that will be ubiquitous and infect people- both vaccinated and not- every year. Some will die. Some die of the flu every year also. It’s sad, but you can’t upend life and children’s future over it.
zkinbk (Brooklyn, NY)
@Rob Kids die of Covid. They ARE impacted. Measles vaccinations are already required in NYC for kids to attend school (and flu vax to attend pre-K)—maybe you weren't aware? They must also be required for Covid which is far more contagious. Stop parroting FOX news disinformation. Masks save lives. Having kids wear them is not "upending life" any more than outlawing smoking on school grounds. Same principles—it's to protect those around them.
Matt (Brooklyn)
Kids are not immune to COVID, but there are other, greater dangers to them which we live with every day. Of a few million pediatric COVID cases, there have been only a few hundred deaths. That's tragic for the families involved but is not sufficient reason to keep schools closed.
Rob (NYC)
@zkinbk Number needed to treat is a helpful metric. 1 out of 103,896 children have a covid vaccine related fatality. You need to treat 331,355 children in order to save 1 child of dying of COVID. So you’d need to sacrifice 3 children in order to save 1 from dying of COVID. The math doesn’t make sense in favor of vaccinations.
Schools could fully reopen today, right now, if there were any political will to do so (which there isn't). Let's stop making this sound more complicated than it is.
tah18 (NYC)
Enough is enough. The city, DOE and UFT should plan for nothing less than in-person education from live teachers in the classroom 5 days a week starting in September. These same officials owe it to the public school children of NYC to get out there ASAP to educate and combat school hesitancy. If a remote option is still to be offered, it should in no way come at the expense of families who wish to return to the classroom. Further, no future resources should be used for families who moved out of NYC last spring and continue to use our city's schools remotely. Time to make policy based not on what feels safe, but what actually is safe.
Debbie Enwhysee (Brooklyn)
As the parent of two Brooklyn public elementary school students, let’s be clear that no NYC public school classrooms have been fully reopened this school year. An hour per day was shaved off of each elementary school day per the mayor’s negotiation with the UFT. 180 missing hours. The equivalent of 28 school days. More than a month of lost education.
KK (nyc)
@Debbie Enwhysee that's your experience and that's wonderful for your kids. But it's not the prevailing circumstance - at all, lets be clear. My kid hasn't been in a classroom with a teacher since March '20.
TJ (Bronx)
I’m wondering if all the schools’ HVAC systems have been updated, windows fixed, class sizes permanently reduced, full time school nurses installed. These things should have been done pre-pandemic but never were. As a teacher, I would suggest that school buildings be updated or rebuilt, class sizes reduced, and clinics for sick children be mandated (since parents still aren’t allowed to stay home with sick kids by many employers), then there should be no problem getting enough teachers. Also, you might want to pay teachers a salary in line with tech workers or stock brokers. After all, which profession is more “essential?”
Cyba (The Un-United States Of America)
@TJ I fully support that teaching is incredibly hard and difficult work; however, teachers get almost 4 months off for vacations/holidays, and the actual school day is quite short (although I recognize that the time not spent teaching during the day is spent grading). I don’t believe that it is fair to compare teaching to other jobs. The pay of a teacher is commensurate with the number of days/hours worked.
479 (USA)
@TJ Yes let's take the next several years off to rebuild schools. Talk about moving the goal post.
Pigsy (The Eatery)
To those demanding mandatory teacher vaccinations, a question. What about mandatory vaccinations for all Americans except those willing to accept bracelet enforced home confinement?
Objectively Subjective (Utopia’s Shadow)
@Pigsy, interesting idea. Thank you for proposing it. Someone who refuses a vaccine absent some actual, documented medical issue is just irresponsible. But the current understanding of COVID suggests that your idea is too extreme. It’s extremely unlikely for COVID to be transmitted outside. So, no need to lock anti-vaxxers in their houses. Just keep the anti-vaxxers from accessing indoor places with a lot of people such as bars, restaurants, schools, nursing homes, airplanes, subways, movie theaters, museums, supermarkets, hospitals, etc. They can still use parks and get take out food at the curb. Once we reach herd immunity, we can let up on the restrictions, which, of course, depends on how committed the anti-vaxxers are. Great idea!
Pigsy (The Eatery)
@Objectively Subjective Totally agree about outdoor safety. However, keeping them at home, means only one door to monitor...
Danielle (Nyc)
What about all the public schools (such as my daughter’s) that DON’T have HVAC systems? NO ventilation systems in the entire building, so they rely on cracking windows which can’t be opened fully? And the cafeteria is in THE BASEMENT with NO WINDOWS to open at all? When and how will they be safe? And why is no one addressing this??
Samuel (Brooklyn)
@Danielle Because the parents that are screaming about how schools need to reopen don't care about that. They don't care that there are legitimate safety concerns, they're just tired of having to spend time with their children.
Working mama (New York)
@Samuel This narrative of parents not wanting to be with their kids is ridiculous and harmful. Kids are supposed to be in school, parents need to work. That’s a huge part of the social contract we all live under. Being at home without social interaction is not good for most kids; parents understand that. And it isn’t wrong for adults to need to work to support those kids. Stop making parents into villains for wanting to live their lives and give decent lives to their children.
Ann (Brooklyn)
@Samuel Maybe they'd care if there was a good-faith effort to work with them to open. Last spring, just before scools closed, parents took tons of time to find bottles of sanitizer for the school (you may remember this was not easy). We could have been helping you push the city to fix windows or find new class space. Instead we were told reopening is impossible and unsafe, full stop. Doesn't leave any room for cooperation. But I know this was mostly DOE's fault - the former chancellor made sure everything went off the rails at the beginning by doing absolutely nothing to help schools plan and communicate...
Martie (Manhattan)
As a public school parent, let me be crystal clear as to why my son is not physically in his high school freshman year class and has chosen the remote option - it has NOTHING to do with getting sick, now that people are getting vaccinated. It has everything to do with LIVE INSTRUCTION (specifically the lack thereof). Why sit in a room, in a mask, staring at a screen with no teachers teaching live? Why bother with the commute, the hours of downtime in said room, when you don’t even get to be in a classroom with the teacher? For him, it is much more efficient to sleep a little later (scientifically proven to be better for teens anyway), attend classes remotely, figure out the most efficient use of his time, and also be able to spend time socializing with friends outside (which he did all winter). He would love to meet his new classmates and teachers, develop new friends and mentors, but until LIVE INSTRUCTION comes back, fuhgeddaboutit. Teachers are as essential as healthcare workers and they need to be back in the classroom, teaching. No more excuses. End of story.
Paul Dejean (Austin)
Articles like this is why what makes me glad Texas has a bunch of anti union laws. The New York teachers union is too powerful and the ones who are hurt are the students.
Liz (Brooklyn)
@Paul Dejean as a union member in NYC, it pains me greatly to agree, but I do! NYC Public Schools have completely failed my 18 year old during her senior year. It is crazy that she's able to play school sports but has to take gym remotely.
L. (Ohio)
In the words of Ron DeSantis: Here’s how you reopen schools. Open ‘em. Let the children learn. I’m a progressive and it pains me to quote that guy, but he’s right. With teachers vaccinated and the science clear that school is safe, there are no excuses anymore. Does NYC want to keep losing families to Florida? We’d welcome you to Ohio, too.
If the schools don’t announce a full reopen for all- including middle and high school- by mid July, this high earner will take her kid and tax dollars to CT, where schools have been fully open all year. I will gladly deal with what is now a two day commute to ensure my (by then fully vaccinated) kid doesn’t endure another year of reduced education because at this point there is zero fact-based excuse for anything but a full reopening. Really kicking myself for not enrolling her in private school but it never crossed my mind that we would not have an actual full in-person reopen plan by now for next fall. This is a complete disgrace.
Jeanne (NYC)
I couldn’t agree more, although I don’t have the option to move to Connecticut so we’re basically stuck for the last two years and I am beyond livid, and we’re at a competitive high school. So nice it’s basically all remote and my kid is twisting in the wind, such a shame and embarrassment for the city
W in the Middle (NY State)
NYC contract runs out in 9/22... Absolute last thing The City needs is some union shill stepping into The Mayor's office, 4Q22... The lower level of quality, quantity, flexibility, and commitment (to students) shown with each passing year should be reflected in any new agreement... Tenure's been shown to do more harm than good at the university level – at the K-12 level, it should be replaced with (individual) 1-3 year contracts, updatable yearly with satisfactory progress – and bought out, otherwise... Just waiting for FOIA to reveal of what sort of conversations and influence may have gone back and forth between the CDC and these folks, regarding masking/distancing/opening for K-12 schools... Let them strike – at this point, folks could credibly pretend to not even notice... They’ve all been quite vocal on what to do to get rid of the worst decile of any police force… Sooo – what have they been doing, to rid students and parents of the worst decile of teachers… PS One more time, for emphasis – fifty years ago, the NYC K-12 and CUNY systems were the envy of cities around the world... PPS When a union focuses on militancy rather than shared prosperity – it’s a tell they see their membership almost as adversarially as management… At least the faction who’d rather be rewarded for students walking a graduation line, than they walking a picket line… PPPS What’s happening isn’t even indoctrination, let alone education… More like cognitive mutilation…
CaryMom (Cary NC)
All public unions need to be made illegal. All of them. Liberals support the teachers unions and conservatives support police unions but both are corrupt. They corrupt our politics and they destroy professional accountability. The unions protect the employees while the taxpayers pay out for lawsuits, absurd salaries and retirement benefits,and substandard performance. I strongly support private industry worker unions as a counterweight to capitalist concentrated power. But public unions corrupt the political process and freeload on the taxpayer dime. They need to be eliminated.
I completely agree. There is an inherent conflict of interest when the unions contribute so much money to get their future negotiating partner elected. We have way too many public sector unions and not nearly enough private sector unions.
Samuel (Brooklyn)
@CaryMom Why would anyone choose to work in the public sector, without the incentives that a strong union provides? I could have gone to law school, and been making five or ten times what I make now as a teacher, and honestly after listening to parents whine so much over the last 18 months, I wish I had. If you take away all the actual incentives of becoming a teacher, who on Earth do you think is going to be willing to actually take the job? People choose to work in the public sector because they're choosing job security and guaranteed retirement instead of higher pay. If what you wish for comes to fruition, you're going to be suck spending EVEN MORE time with your own kids than you already had to this past year, since every school in the country will be unable to meet staffing needs.
Ines (New York)
@CaryMom Could not agree more. All public unions should be illegal. Huge conflict of interest. The teachers union is worse than the police union simply because they extract benefits from the backs of children.
JA (Brooklyn)
"Teachers have been eligible for the vaccine since January, and well over half have been vaccinated." Well over HALF? Just this month my daughter and her entire 8th grade class had to quarantine for 10 days (can't leave the apartment except for medical care) because an 8th grade teacher brought Covid into the school. Why wasn't she vaccinated? She was "doing her own research" about the long-term effects of the mRNA vaccines. She's an English teacher. We have a remote option. It's called homeschooling. I wish all these students and teachers who aren't interested in following science would look into it.
Pigsy (The Eatery)
Why are less than half of Americans vaccinated? Why? Teachers are not law enforcement, military, or fire fighters. They did not sign up for a job that includes exposure to risk. They have as much right to refuse vaccines as any other American. To be clear, I actually think that vaccination should be mandated for all Americans, I am reacting to the scapegoating of teachers.
Neither did grocery store clerks and delivery, ride share and taxi drivers, private daycare providers, private and charter school teachers and MTA workers but they’ve all been showing up since day one. If teachers did the same or even had not demanded early access (and even then refused to return) their vaccination status wouldn’t be such a point of contention.
Pigsy (The Eatery)
@M a little different. most of the workers you list only have time limited contact with customers, and are not working out of crowded, poorly ventilated rooms with a group of people (kids) for hours at a time. also, most are not constantly responsible for the behavior and safety of others with respect to adherence to COVID protocols. and private daycare providers...well, it is tough when your employment is "at will" in this fair country of ours.
Sam D (Queens)
It seems this pandemic showed that modern society cannot function without teachers. It’s time we paid them like it.
Sarah (CT)
@Sam D I do not think that is the lesson most people are going to take from the situation in NYC--I think most are going to think about what they would make if they refused to show up and do their jobs.
B. (Brooklyn)
New York City teachers are paid very well when you consider that, given their pensions and health benefits, they really do not need to consider saving money for their retirement. Unlike the rest of us.
tah18 (NYC)
@Sam D Plenty of hospital workers who showed up every day during the worst days of the pandemic get paid a lot less than NYC teachers.
rab (Upstate NY)
The pre-covid school experience fostered "academic momentum" in the majority of students who attended daily, paid attention, and completed their assignments. The pandemic school experience has taken a severe toll on the routines (am) that make for school success. The longer they stay away, the harder it will to recover their academic momentum. For too many, it will be lost for good.
Laura (New York)
Has the chancellor considered having vaccines available for eligible children and their families at her forthcoming town hall meetings? This could benefit public health and also encourage participation at the town halls.
Jackie (USA)
Florida schools have been open for months with no problems. The difference: A competent governor and no teacher's unions.
Heather (Florida)
@Jackie While I agree Florida has been open all year with no problems, it’s hardly the result of a competent governor. Rather, forcing schools open last year was a total crapshoot based on known science at the time, and it was very possible that it could have backfired. As it turns out, it didn’t. Very lucky for us. But not evidence of a competent governor. All that said, with a year of hindsight, we know know it was the right decision and schools elsewhere should follow our lead.
Samuel (Brooklyn)
@Jackie That would be an interesting comparison, except for the fact that there are about as many students in JUST New York City as there are in the entire state of Florida. You're comparing apples to potatoes.
Senior Citizen (Florida)
Same with parochial schools everywhere.
Brody (NYC)
To offer remote learning next fall would be a terrible mistake. We're talking about keeping some kids out of the classroom for three straight calendar school years. With the vaccines and plummetting case numbers, there is no longer justification for remote learning, and to offer it would only indulge uninformed, uneducated parents oblivious to the real risks involved.
Anthony (Houston)
It's time for the kids to get back in school full time. Teens and elementary school age. With a robust vaccination plan for teachers and students in place they can proceed. The threat of what might happen shouldn't over ride facts. I say this as a COVID test site worker for over a year now.
H Silk (Murfreesboro,TN)
@Anthony I don't know what the situation is in TX, but schools here in TN have been mostly open all year. There have been glitches, and maybe it wasn't the best idea, but honestly the majority of cases here had/have nothing to do with schools. Vaccines have been available to teachers for a long time now and are readily available to those 12 and up. Remote learning here was an option ( and not a good one) but shouldn't be in the fall. It's time to get everyone back in school.
Jan N (Wisconsin)
"Though it is now clear that virus transmission has been extremely low in schools, only about 50,000 families who had been learning remotely opted back into classrooms when given the opportunity last month." Now really, wouldn't it seem clear to many parents reading this that the ONLY reason "virus transmission has been extremely low in schools" is because practically no students are actually IN the schools! How about some numbers - HOW many children have been infected, HOW many teachers have been infected, how do you really know it's safe when not everybody is going to be vaccinated - ever. As several noted in the article, concrete things the schools are going to do and require of both teachers and students must be made much more transparent and an actual plan for both in person and remote learning must be fully explained to parents and students alike.
Ann (Brooklyn)
@Jan N This is not really true. One of my kids goes to private school, and they have 20 person classes. They're doing Covid testing very similar to public schools, and were just as safe all year. The kids aren't even forced to sit silently, stay 6' from each other at all times, never take a sip of water, or eat lunch outside on the pavement (all things I've heard of happening at different schools for the sake of safety). So apparently safety isn't about keeping most kids out of the classroom, or about not letting them be kids. I'm not even sure it's the masks, because cloth masks are really not hazmat gear.
Ines (New York)
What should be happening is full time summer school in person starting July 5. Given summer, teacher vaccinations, teen vaccinations, there's no reason not to do it. Given the mental health challenges these poor kids have been through because their teachers refused to teach in person, not to mention an entire year lost to video games, net flix and twitch instead of learning, a state of emergency should be declared. As a society we will all pay dearly for this UFT boondoggle. And the teachers who need accommodations? Maybe it's time for them to be offered a package for early retirement. They can always find another job where it's appropriate to work from home. I doubt it will provide summers off, no daily accountability to a boss and customers and a lifetime pension. Welcome to the real world.
ManhattanMom (New York, NY)
@Ines I totally agree about the damage done by teachers who have refused to teach in person. Remote learning has been intolerable for my teen, leading to depression, sinking grades, loss of education. As a result, my whole feeling about the UFT has changed. I will never again support or sympathize with this greedy, self-serving union. But right now the last thing my child could stomach is more school She needs the summer off.
Anya (New Jersey)
@Ines Speaking as a student myself, I understand where you're coming from. Yes, there've been teachers that have refused to teach in person, and not to mention the everlasting distraction of entertainment in the past year. I personally have done well in academics amidst COVID-19 and although some haven't, summer school doesn't seem like a bad choice. But is full-time summer school really an option? This school year was hard enough for some on its own and the whole education system needs a break to get it together. Think about it, this COVID-19 thing is still moderately new and the last thing anyone needs is to jump into something that nobody is ready for. To be prepared for the upcoming school year this fall, we need to take in the fact that making a big change like instating summer school isn't possible. And please, take it easy on the teachers. I've watched the majority of them work so strenuously to create a valid learning environment for us. We need to remember they're new to this too, and finding other jobs during these troubling times is tough. Taking into consideration that many are out of jobs and are struggling to even pay rent, retiring, or finding other places employment isn't even possible for educators.
Samuel (Brooklyn)
@Ines If you force the retirement of all those teachers, you realize that schools will be in exactly the same place they are right now, right? Who do you think will be teaching your children if you fire all their teachers? You? Do you think there is some clamor of people trying to become teachers? If your kids play video games instead of going to class and completing their work, that sounds like more of an indictment of your parenting, than an indictment of your children's teachers. Haven't you ever taught them about work ethic or handling their responsibilities?
rab (Upstate NY)
We are witnessing the (de-facto) end of compensatory public school education. For those who say, "It's about time", I say, be careful what you wish for.
Ann (Brooklyn)
@rab you mean it could be worse than depriving kids of education? You're talking like we actually have a public school system for all. After this year, I'm not so sure. Any monopoly with the power to wreck kids' lives like that deserves to be trust-busted into little pieces.
Frank Beans (Brooklyn, NY)
My student at Murrow has multiple teachers who don’t teach even their remote classes, assigning asynchronous work via email. My daughter has teachers whose faces she hasn’t seen on zoom since fall. It’s a complete and utter mess and failure.
Chloe (Brooklyn)
@Frank Beans My daughter is in 7th grade and we were planning to look into the Communication Arts program at Morrow because she loves writing. The fact that so few of their teachers are coming in is alarming though. If your child was there before the pandemic, did they have a good experience? I’m wondering if we should just cross Morrow off our list.
Ines (New York)
@Frank Beans I wish the NYT would write about this. Parents who pay attention know most teachers were MIA during "remote learning". Perhaps they were Kondoing their closets? Whatever they were doing, they certainly were not working the same hours they worked in 2019.
Ines (New York)
@Chloe If you want to avoid MIA teachers during a pandemic I recommend that you look at private and/or Catholic schools, ie. wherever there isn't a union. Even the most stellar DOE schools (made stellar by the composition of their students of course) had widespread MIA teachers.
Observer (Nyc)
There is a massive disconnect between the guidance the CDC issued this week - that if you are vaccinated, you are safe, unmasked, indoors or out, crowded or not - and these endless caveats and prevarications concerning a full in-person school reopening. There is no reason the schools should not adhere to the science that the CDC had reported, and fully open schools without restrictions for, at a minimum, all high schools where every single person can be fully vaccinated by the fall.
Jan N (Wisconsin)
@Observer, how convenient for you to ignore the big elephant in the room - the fact that not everybody inside a school and outside a school have been fully vaccinated. Now I fully understand that certain people don't give a hoot about infecting somebody with a potentially fatal virus, but I'm going to continue to wear my mask when around people I have no idea have been vaccinated because even though I have been vaccinated, I could still potentially pass the virus on to one of those who has not been vaccinated. I'm not going to be a party to a potential death. As for parents who are hesitant to send their unvaccinated young children especially back into school systems, I'm on their side. It doesn't sound like there has been much transparency coming out of the New York public school system about what happened last year or what is happening this year and what is planned for this fall's anticipated reopening of all schools. If you have children and are comfortable putting their lives at risk, go for it, but you have no right to demand that everybody else acts as you do.
Ben (NYC)
My kids have been schooled remotely since March 2020. They love it and they are doing better at home than in school.
I’m glad your kids had a good experience and wish them the best with a homeschooling program should they continue remotely when schools fully reopen in the fall.
Ben (NYC)
@M - Thank you so much. My plan is to have them back in school come September
ManhattanMom (New York, NY)
@Ben It's wonderful that some kids have flourished with remote schooling, but so many have had their mental health, not to mention their education, damaged and been left to cope with no support from the city. If you're not aware of that, you're living in a bubble.
Dk (South Delaware)
Parents should demand only open schools if all students are vaccinated and parents also. And any one entering the schools during the day can’t get in unless they show a vaccine card. That is as safe as you get it .
Ben (NYC)
If it is not already mandated, every single teacher and employee who works in a school would be required to be fully vaxed before they can return to or continue to work. If this happens, IMHO, 100% of all schools can reopen
Samuel (Brooklyn)
@Ben That won't happen, this is America. They won't even mandate the vaccine for children (once eligibility is approved by the FDA for ages below 12) because of screeching parents screaming about how wrong it is to require covid vaccinations, as if schools hadn't ALREADY required students to receive half a dozen vaccinations to enter, for the last 50 years.
April (NYC)
@Ben, I agree. My child has to be fully vaccinated to attend a NYC public school. Why would we treat the children one way and the teachers another. If you are a parent and you don’t want to get your child vaccinated you are pointed towards the private schools.
Jan N (Wisconsin)
@Ben, I agree, but good luck with that! I think it's much more important for PARENTS to be required to have their eligible children vaccinated and provide proof of it just like parents have to provide proof of other vaccinations before children are admitted into schooling. No vaccination, no in class learning, NO EXCEPTIONS.
It’s an absolute disgrace that the Mayor and the UFT still don’t have a Plan to open the Schools. The claim that Schools are open and functioning is false, ask the children and parents. Disorganized and ineffective just as Remote learning has been. The children who are the most in need of a great education have lost over a year while the Teachers have been paid as though they were teaching five days a week in the classroom. The fact that there isn’t an intensive effort to have a Summer Session for ALL students indicates to me the Mayor and the UFT aren’t really interested in our Children.
Samuel (Brooklyn)
@HPS It's not the UFT's function to be interested in your children. It's a union, it exists to represent its constituent members, not to represent the entire public. Why is this such a difficult concept? Just because you don't think remote teaching is actually teaching doesn't mean you know what you're talking about. It takes significantly more effort to get students to understand a particular concept in Google Meet, than it does in an actual classroom. I would be thrilled to reopen fully in person tomorrow, but I'm 34 and healthy, which is not something all my colleagues can say. I'll apologize on their behalf, that they're not willing to potentially die, so that you can regain your access to low-cost childcare. FYI, if teachers actually made the average rate that babysitters were paid in 2005 when my sister was babysitting ($10 per child per hour) then they'd be making $200,000 per year. And that's just for the babysitting services, with no teaching being done whatsoever.
Ellen K (DC)
More than maybe any other comment I’ve read, this comment explains why parents lose faith in public school teachers.
You said it the UFT and it’s members are More concerned about themselves than the Students!
C Ship (NYC)
The vaccine is available and effective. The hesitant have made their strange decision and should be able to opt for online schooling—but not at the expense of everyone else’s well being. The city needs to move into the future and establish an online high school for those students and teachers. Let everyone else get back to normal. Teenagers are suffering; another year of this will produce a mental health crisis.
Jan N (Wisconsin)
@C Ship, if teenagers are indeed "suffering", get them vaccinated so they can socialize with each other once again just as the CDC says they can once fully vaccinated - no masks, go into crowds, rub noses, whatever, whoopee! Schools ARE open in New York, so where are the teenagers? Did you miss the part in the article that only about 50,000 families sent their kids back into in-person learning? Yeah.
@Jan My eight year old became suicidal this year during remote learning and you don't think it's possible teenagers are "suffering"?
Did you miss the fact that those who do go to school sit and still have zoom learning in the building with teachers who are remote? You did, because you’re in WI and not NYC. If schools were open for in person learning the overwhelming majority of kids would be there.
Cyba (The Un-United States Of America)
I really hope that schools are opened full-time for those students who need, want to be in school. I don’t understand why they are not mandating COVID vaccines for students who are eligible to take them. Every year I have to send in a DOH medical form that shows my child is up to date with his vaccines, I would think that the COVID vaccine would just be one of the required vaccinations.
Hools (Northern CA)
I expect that the State will require the vaccine for students when it is fully approved by the FDA. The Pfizer vaccine is currently being offered under an emergency use authorization. Pfizer has recently requested full approval from the FDA for ages 16 . Pfizer will likely add the 12-15 age group to this request soon. The FDA is expected to grant full approval sometime later this year, but it likely will not come in time for the State to implement a vaccine mandate for students before school starts in the fall. That shouldn’t stop the schools from requiring that all teachers and other staff get vaccinated absent a true medical basis for not doing so.
Matt C (New York)
All staff members who can be vaccinated should be vaccinated and should return to in-person work. Those who decline the vaccines should be required to return as well. The DOE should establish an on-line program for all grade levels and open it to families and educators with medical reasons that require them to work and learn in the safety of their homes. The need for such a program exists regardless of the state of this particular pandemic. Renovations and new school construction that makes buildings healthier should happen, and not just because we are only now hearing about how poor the conditions are in our schools. NYC educators and families have done a tremendous job during an extraordinary crisis and should be applauded. And we should be preparing for the next one.
Jan N (Wisconsin)
@Matt C, would you really want unvaccinated adults around your unvaccinated children, so they can bring the virus home and/or spread it around among other unvaccinated people who could get sick and die? Think those highly contagious and more deadly variants are going away in the USA anytime soon or that the Indian version of the virus won't make it's way here if it's not already here? Me neither. As it is, we already have severe teacher shortages just about everywhere in the USA, and heaping additional demands on already overworked, underpaid and greatly under-appreciated teachers isn't going to encourage more of them to return to the ranks of teaching! It's way past time parents stop thinking of teachers as their cheap day-care providers and scapegoats whom they then feel free to pummel because their kids ultimately turn out to be less than the ideal children they think they should be (while not, of course, ever questioning that perhaps it was because they were lousy parents). I'm not a teacher and none of my immediate relatives are teachers, so I'm not defending them for that reason. I have respect for teachers as my fellow human beings, and I remember a time when we use to look up to teachers and admire them, and we did not blame them for the failures of our own families! Now everybody seems to blame teachers for everything, and I'm sick and tired of hearing it. It's just another one of those stupid big lies!
Matt C (New York)
@Jan N It is surprising to me that my comment struck you as anti-teacher. I am one myself, and spent last year doing in-person work (when buildings were open,) and even went into building lobbies to distribute ipads/chromebooks to our kids when buildings were closed. I read what science and health care experts tell us, appreciate that our knowledge is evolving, and have come to think that a return to normal school is now possible. The way the NYC schools I am familiar with are now working is not sustainable. Given that vaccines are not likely to be mandated, and without the expertise to dispute the idea that children are not at high risk from covid, I have to wonder what you are calling for instead.
Samuel (Brooklyn)
@Jan N Yeah, apparently it's the teacher's fault nowadays when students cut class. I wish someone had told my mom that when I was 13, so that she could have punished my teachers instead of me.
mike (new york, ny)
Imagine if 28% of medical workers refused to show up because of medical accommodation. We pushed teachers to the front of the vaccine line, ahead of many at risk populations, because we all agreed they were more essential. Its infuriating - the number of teachers that are not in classrooms right now. Many colleges are going to make vaccines compulsory once there if full approval, same should be the case for teachers (and medical workers for that matter). As for students, they need to somehow make in person the standard option and remote the much less appealing option. But DeBlasio will probably capitulate to noisy teachers and parents like he always does and make a mess of it.
Teacher Mom (Brooklyn)
Just so we’re clear, 2/3 of nyc students and their families chose not to return, necessitating the need for remote instruction. That is not the teachers’ “fault,” rather everyone trying to make the best choice for their families. Stop trying to find a scapegoat and start helping get everyone back!
@Teacher Mom Chose is many cases is not true. They were forced into remote because of unstable schedules, constant 10 day closures, and for older kids, zoom in a room (why bother). Staying remote with consistently was the only "choice" they had.
@mike - The average age of a registered nurse is 51, and of course many have comorbidities. So if they'd wanted to ask for medical accommodations, I'm sure many would have qualified. But the fact is, they didn't ask, they kept working. Only teachers seem to be special that way.
Frumious Bandersnatch (New York)
This year has been completely lost for NYC public school kids. If the schools are not opened and fully operational by the fall it will be an abysmal failure. If schools remain closed, it will have far reaching consequences for NYC and the future of NYC public schools. Parents are frustrated, demanding better for their kids, and leaving the system in droves. Having a quality healthy public school system that actually educates children is essential to the success of NYC. If the NYC schools don’t open, those who can will choose other options while those who cannot will be left behind. This will further the opportunity divide and increase income inequality. Quality education for all is of paramount importance. We are now at a crossroads and NYC leadership must make the right decision. Education is a basic human right. Open the schools and provide a quality education for all NYC students!!!
dba (nyc)
@Frumious Bandersnatch School has been open since September. It only closed in November due to increasing Covid rates, and then reopened when it was deemed safe. Given the unprecedented pandemic and its risk, and unknowns in the beginning, NYC did as best as could be. Furthermore, during this time, transmission rate in schools were low precisely because most students opted for remote, and so there were hardly any kids in the buildings. And yet, there were outbreaks.
Frumious Bandersnatch (New York)
@dba I understand due to the pandemic remote was necessary. However, our large middle school had hybrid learning with minimal outbreaks. Now we are talking about the fall and the future. This cannot continue. Parents need to work and students need to receive a proper education. By the fall, it is anticipated that almost 70% of the NYC population will be fully vaccinated. They even have a vaccine for middle schoolers. Enough already. Time to move forward.
dba (nyc)
@Frumious Bandersnatch I agree. But you seem to blaming teachers for a situation they could not control. We were and continue to be at war, but without the bombs. I fear that lifting indoor masking will allow the virus to proliferate. And once again, hybrid learning at your school allowed for the necessary social distancing to minimize the outbreaks. If all the kids were back in the classroom throughout this year, transmission would have been much higher, thus resulting in more outbreaks. Until recently, vaccines were very difficult to access.
betsy (east village)
I am surprised that most Democratic candidates for mayor do not support an online-only option for NYC public school students. It is only fair to do so, to accommodate students and teachers with whatever issues that it’s best for them to stay in online school. My own child dreams of being back in school next year and is thrilled about it-she’s vaccinated and ready to get up at 6am again instead of 10 minutes before her first class. Breaks between classes will mean giggling in the school hallways with friends rather than schlepping into the kitchen for a handful of popcorn. Class discussions will have lively cross-talk rather than the one person at a time talking on the Zoom.
Cory (Wisco)
What an absolute miracle the blessing technology has given us. It has allowed us to continue with life, learning and work. I acknowledge that technology hasn't allowed everyone to continue working and the difficulties associated with the shift, but where would we be without it?
Pluribus (Charlotte, NC)
Anybody who takes Mulgrew at his word that he (and the UFT) want something like normality this fall is entirely too trusting. I have a grand-daughter at one of the many SEVERELY affected high schools in NYC, and she attends - now that schools have allegedly "re-opened" [wait for it] - one (1) day a week for a total of under 2 hours of face-to-face instruction. When terrible people do terrible things in the world of finance, knowledgeable, decent people use a turn called "clawback," which boils down to wanting them to return bonus payments often in the millions of dollars that were paid out before it was realized that one way or another, their bad behavior cost their employers ... millions of dollars. The UFT really owes the City and its parents the better part of a billion dollars. If you're "delivering" the municipal service called education, we have 15 months or so and counting of "theft of service," taking money for doing 1/2 a job at most. Almost every parent in NYC who believes that her/his child has a challenge that requires expensive remediation has to go to court to get the City to accommodate! And yet the instructional staff can say - they sure did around this time a year ago - "I'm not comfortable going back," and that's that. I have been impressed with Scott Stringer, but his claim that "we should be proud of having reopened the schools" - together with the UFT's endorsement - says it all. The UFT & NYPD pull Bill's strings, and the City is the worse for it.
Ines (New York)
@Pluribus Brilliant. UFT should have to return dues from 3/20 to 9/21 which should be used to fund private tutoring for at risk kids impacted by the pandemic. Love this!
McGloin (Brooklyn)
Whether schools can be normal in September depends how hard we work to starve Covid of hosts now. If we spend the next 4 months pretending that Covid is over, taking off our masks indoors and traveling around, then we are likely to see yet another wave. People keep saying children don't get it, but that is provably wrong, because many children have gotten it. They don't always die, but many have permanent health damage like reduced lung capacity. The more children that get Covid, the more opportunities the replicating virus has to mutate into strains that target children. It only takes one child with Covid to do that. People keep saying "trust the vaccine," and I trust it to work 90% of the time (J&J is 75% effective), but I also understand that (according to the rules of probability 100% - 90% = 10% ineffective. (25%: ineffective for J&J) The NY Yankees were 85% vaccinated, so they took their masks of in the dugout and ate together indoors, and now numerous Yankees who were VACCINATED have Covid. Every vaccinated person who gets Covid is now incubating mutations while the virus is under attack by vaccine antibodies. This is HOW you create strains that are resistant to the vaccine. The last CDC decision was political not scientific. For 1,000,000 years of human history, and 10,000 years of civilisation, there were no cars, planes, schools, or even restaurants for most people. EVERYONE stayed home with their families most of the time. We are spoiled brats.
@McGloin You are 100% correct. This is why I will not return to face-to-face teaching in the fall. The other work options I have will carry me through, albeit with less income. I love teaching, and will miss being a college teacher, but my health comes first. I have friends who work in public health, including for New York City. The decision to reopen is politically driven. The actual public health officials are aghast. The chance of a dangerous mutation arriving or developing in New York City is high. Then we are back to square one, with those of us who were on the front lines becoming canaries in the coal mine. I decline the honor. Those posting here who think it will be easy to replace teachers with 20 to 30 years classroom experience, ought to think again.
April (NYC)
@RMC as long as teachers who refuse to come back to the classroom are not going out in society, aren’t traveling, didn’t attend that birthday or wedding I will accept they can’t do in person teaching for medical reasons. As for those who decide to leave the work force that’s always an option. It certainly will open up a number of positions to others who have desperately been looking for work. As a parent what I need out of the DOE is consistency. Out or In just let me know so I can make my plan. Those require some time and may require moving.
@April Well, then I qualify. Don't be such a skeptic - your children's teachers aren't hypocritical. Nor are those positions so easily filled - 30 years is a long time in the college classroom, and I recall my first 1-5 years quite well. Trust me; I'm much better at it now, than I was then. Experience does count, you know.
Patrick (NY)
Thank you Doctor Uche for blunt but necessary honesty, simply put, sending your child to school is not a zero risk situation. By extension the more interactions one has the greater the risk until we reach heard immunity. What is lacking, direct answers which fuels the lack of trust. There is an obvious failure to provide answers to questions. Watch any news program, listen to the question then watch how it is evaded
Rmt (MD)
We chose to keep our children in remote learning this spring because we were not yet vaccinated and didn’t know when we would be able to get the shot. Now that the rollout has been a success, I think a lot of parents who chose remote would want to go back to in-person. Remote learning has probably saved a lot of teachers’ and parents’ lives, but now that there’s a readily available vaccine, it’s time to go back in person.
Dorothy (NYC)
This article fails to mention that vaccinated teachers were given a choice to come back to school this spring. My daughter's high school has one 11th grade teacher in the building. The rest have medical accommodations. It's hugely disappointing that teachers did not choose to go back despite the opportunity and likelihood of being vaccinated. The medical accommodations should have stopped. I have been working in person in a school since September- PPE works.
And then we quit. NYC can recruit a group of good soldiers to show up regardless of the dangers.
McGloin (Brooklyn)
@Dorothy No teachers were given a choice whether to come back to school. I was ordered back to school in early February, UNVACCINATED. I have heart problems and live with someone who is immuno-compromised, so I read the rules for accommodations but didn't bother to apply, because they only consider people who are over 65. Since February 2 students tested positive in my tiny school,that only had about 20 kids in the building each day, Your assertions contradict the actual facts. The Massachusetts "3 feet" study SAYS, they did no testing and that they controlled for community spread. Then TV pundits that this study and claim it means that schools are safe, One study based on weak data that controlled for community spread is not "the science," and cannot logically be used as evidence that schools don't contribute to community spread (because you can't prove what you control for). When you assume, it makes a corpse out of you and me. 15 months of rosey scenarios, uncollected data (testing has been pathetically sparse), and made up facts, like "children don't get it, " when they obviously do, killed 580,000 Americans. If we keep exposing children to Covid, it will eventually mutate a strain that targets children. If we keep exposing vaccinated people to Covid (like the NY Yankees), it will eventually become vaccine resistant. No one knows what September will look like. If past is prologue, we will could be in the middle of a spike larger than the previous spike.
JimH (NC)
Report to work or face termination. That is the only option.
I am in a high-risk demographic and have been teaching at a CUNY college for 15 years. I have over 30 years teaching experience. I will not be in the classroom in September. Repeat: I am not going back into a building that is poorly ventilated and crowded. I am not commuting on crowded public transportation. There is no way that CUNY can be sure that all students, staff and faculty have been vaccinated. I will not be there. That is not negotiable. Although I have been assured that my courses will be taught online, that is not how they are listed on the registration interface. They are listed as TBA. Students are registering for these courses. They are not aware that I have stated, repeatedly and unequivocally, that I will not teach face-to-face in September. I don’t know what CUNY thinks it’s doing, but I and many other part-time teachers, including several of my friends, are confused and angry. If the University decides at any time to schedule those courses face-to-face, teachers will leave. No bluff, Mayor DeB. Most teachers have put in time and effort, and taken additional courses, to teach online. Our courses are not makeshift – they are well-designed, online teaching tools. There is no need to force faculty and students into a face-to-face setting prematurely. To do so would be unfair to both teachers and students. It would be particularly unfair to students, because many faculty are part-time teachers who have other sources of income. We will resign.
Josephine (Cambridge MA)
I am curious if you are vaccinated or have a medical condition making vaccination impossible or ineffective. If that is the case, I am empathetic and hope you remain healthy (I have immuncompromised close family members so I do understand this challenge). If, however, you are choosing not to get vaccinated and then complaining about the risk of catching the virus which you could avoid via a vaccine, I do not understand that position.
Phil (Harrison, NY)
@RMC You have the option of getting vaccinated, which is ~99% effective at preventing serious illness or death. If you choose not to or can’t for a medical reason (fairly rare) then yes, you should resign. Life is not zero risk. I choose not to be a skydiving instructor because that seems too risky for me, but others do it. If teaching is too risky for you then you need to find another profession and we’ll hire other teachers. We can’t as a society keep accommodating every unfounded fear at the expense of our children’s education.
I am vaccinated. I am also in a very high risk demographic as is my husband. I am aware that variants are continuing to develop. I am also aware of the teaching conditions inside the hundred year old buildings that comprise much of the CUNY campus. I am also aware that even the newer buildings are crowded, and poorly ventilated. CUNY cannot assure that all teachers, students and staff will be vaccinated. For one thing, the staff unions are resisting efforts to compel employees to show proof of vaccination. In crowded conditions, variants will continue to develop. In 2020, CUNY waited until a teacher and principal had died before closing down the schools. You missed my point; it does not matter whether you or anyone else empathizes. I know the risks, I know what my doctors have warned, and I am not going back. If CUNY has decided that it is OK if a large portion of the experienced adjunct faculty resigns or retires, then I guess the students and public will just have to deal with that decision. I would suggest, however, if you are signing up for a fall course at CUNY, you not believe what you see on the CUNYFirst registration website . Many of the teachers whose classrooms are listed as TBA, have indicated that they will not teach face-to-face. CUNY has not respected that decision in listing the courses for which you are registering and paying tuition- upfront.
Chloe (Brooklyn)
As usual, the NYT leaves out the most glaringly obvious reason most people haven’t come back to in-person learning this spring- it’s too hard/pointless logistically to make a new schedule and routine with only 2 months left in the school year. In the case of my daughter’s middle school, if people opted in to hybrid their kids would have to figure out how to get to a new school building for two days a week, for only 2.5 actual in-person learning hours per day (the rest is asynchronous work on computers). Next fall is a totally different story, provided schools offer a mostly back-to-normal curriculum.
Samuel (Brooklyn)
@Chloe What would you expect? This is an Eliza Shapiro article, so obviously it's not going to discuss actual logistical realities of running schools, its just going to bash on teachers and the teacher's union.
Go Blue (Ann Arbor)
@Chloe Many middle and high schoolers in my hometown chose not to return to hybrid school for this very reason. Six weeks with two half days of in-person instruction per week starting in early May was deemed not adequate by many families. I conquer with the statement in the article that the time for fall planning is now, and I will add that transparency is paramount. Our school leaders have assured the community that they will provide five full-days of instruction but have not detailed how they will define "full days." Will my high schooler return to pre-pandemic school hours? How will this affect her extracurriculars, job, planning for college?
Samuel (Brooklyn)
@Chloe What did you expect? As usual, this is just more bashing on teachers and teacher's unions, with not even a thought toward logistical or strategic concerns. That has been the entire Times coverage of schools since the pandemic started.
Opening the doors and ending medical waivers that would have not been granted pre-pandemic. End of story.
Patrick (NY)
M. Employers are free to decline medical waivers. Employees are free to bring federal lawsuits. A blanket no is not a solution. Thankfully I have been in work in person every day except for the 14 days I was required to quarantine due to a bout of COvid I would love to be part of a blanket denial. I always wanted to buy a boat and have the taxpayers pay for it.
I didn’t say a blanket no. Even the minutes from the last teachers Union meeting shows they told teachers not to expect waivers due to Covid and that non-vaccination would not be eligible for waiver on its own. Teachers with true high risk conditions who medically can’t also be vaccinated should of course receive a waiver. Everyone else needs to return full time in person. Anything less than that by September is absolute madness.
NY teacher (Queens)
Key to success in the Fall is a plan NOW to decide how many teachers and students will be in every building, and then execute scheduling and safety issues which differ in each building. Waiting until summer is unacceptable and will result in nightmares and last minute changes for schools and parents all over again. There is no reason students and teachers cannot be in person 5 days a week starting in September.
Richard (Brooklyn)
All teachers without a verified medical excuse should be vaccinated and schools should resume fully in person- it's time to cut the nonsense. Schools around the world have been open and very safe. My three little grandkids have been in school all year- two in a private pre-school here in Brooklyn, and one in a public school in Scottsdale, AZ. It's sure great for teachers to work from home; they eliminate the time and cost of commutation, which is a major thing in the metro area. If not in the classroom, teachers pay should be docked to offset the savings they're pocketing now. Stop the pandering to the teachers' unions.
Samuel (Brooklyn)
@Richard I hope that when your grandkids teachers go back fully in person, they ONLY work during actual school hours, and start demanding that you pay them extra if you want things like lessons to be planned and assignments to be graded, since there isn't actually enough time to do that during the school day if you have a full schedule of classes. If teachers are going to be docked pay for working remotely, are they going to be paid overtime when they work in person and spend every evening working outside of school hours?
Georgia (NYC)
@Richard Really? Savings that we're pocketing? Surely, you can't be serious. Do you really think we're MAKING money from this adventure in learning? Take a look at my Con Ed bill and then tell me. Not to mention the extra materials that had to be purchased to work from our living rooms. Bought any teaching materials lately? Not cheap. We can't wait to get back in the building and actually BE with our kids. We miss them dearly. Everyone of my remote colleagues is more than eager to get back. And, yes, how horrible that our union wants to keep us safe.
Jackson (Virginia)
@Samuel Please - most teachers only work the exact number of hours and days and make extensive use of personal leave time. They demanded to be vaccinated and have been.
Why does the author choose to write “only” 50,000 families opted back in to in-person learning this spring. That may be a small percentage of total students choosing remote learning (a number which was not stated), but last time I checked, 50,000 is still a lot of people. Also, I wonder how many students in remote learning truly want that vs. their parents who read fear-inciting articles and statistics in the media.
April (NYC)
I’d suggest that parents opted to stay remote because it was the most consistent option as many have stated. Logistics for the in person option were prohibitive. If you had to work outside your home then your child needed to go back. Especially if you couldn’t find or afford childcare. Also if you found that acting as the teacher didn’t work you had to go back. Lastly if you felt child-child interactions were most critical you went back. School to school and classroom to classroom the experience has varied significantly. Consider what I person requires from a logistics perspective for parents trying to fill the childcare gap.
Gwen (NYC)
It is time for common sense to be applied to the medical accommodations issue. There will be a tiny number of teachers who need a medical accommodation (for example, those who are going through chemo or similar immuno-compromising treatments). Other than this small group, any classroom teacher relying on a medical accommodation at this point is a malingerer and should be treated as such. Most teachers have been vaccinated for months -- those who are still working from home behind the guise of a "blanket" medical accommodation -- are taking advantage, at the expense of students.
Chloe (Brooklyn)
@Gwen at this point schools still need remote teachers because more than half of kids are remote. My daughter’s middle school has said they can’t require teachers to stream their live classes to remote students, so the only work-around is to have the in-person hybrid students do asynchronous work fo the remote teacher’s classes when they’re in school (about half the time).
@Gwen I teach at a CUNY School and I assure you that I will not be there face-to-face in September. The schools are not ventilated. Stairwells and elevators are packed. The virus continues to mutate. Loudmouths can mount their high horses as high as they can climb- but no one will cajole, threaten or shame me into an unventilated classroom. Moreover, I have been speaking to a number of friends who also adjunct at CUNY and they will not be there, either. If you think online teaching is malingering, you should try it sometime. All of us have taken courses in designing and teaching online curricula. I spend more time working online than I did when face-to-face. The students are fine. I have learned that, in addition to attending class online, they have set up a WhatsApp thread so that they can communicate with one another about assignments and texts. Everyone is working hard, and managing well. Those who have issues have contacted me via email and text, and we have had private zoom sessions to resolve those matters. Go ahead and pretend that teachers are malingerers because they refuse to return to classrooms until the pandemic is securely over. Do you know what will be the outcome of such self-important chest-beating? The teachers won’t show up. Then what do you think will happen to those students about whom you claim to be so concerned?
Dani B (NYC)
@Gwen You are lumping all teachers with medical accommodations together. Some are out for smaller ailments, but many of us are severely immunocompromised, and having the vaccine does not guarantee safety, as the recent outbreak among vaccinated NY Yankees shows. I have a severe autoimmune condition, and the medication I take reduces the efficacy of vaccines. I am fully vaccinated and must still mask and socially distance. This is true for many educators who have an accommodation. It seems to me if the mayor will not require students to be vaccinated, he cannot require immunocompromised teachers to go back into the building. To be honest, I am afraid. Schools buildings are dirty and crowded and not properly ventilated. My in person colleagues told me the kids are not great about masking and must constantly be reminded. This is not a safe environment for any school staff who has any immune condition.
See also