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NYC education chief warns schools will only open if they can hire 2,500 teachers in next 12 days

The NYC Schools Chancellor warned Thursday that the city's schools will not be able to reopen unless another 2,500 teachers are recruited, hired, and trained in the next 12 days.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio had previously said that the city will need to bring in 2,000 additional teachers, bringing the total number needed to 4,500 if in-class and at-home live learning was to be successful. 

Chancellor Richard Carranza told parents leaders on Wednesday night that talks were underway with City University of New York to hire laid-off adjunct professors and graduate students, yet no further details were offered on how the mass hiring is expected to take place in less than two weeks.

Even if that number is hit, some warned that thousands more will still be needed to ensure that middle schools and high schools can properly open.

The news was met with anger from parents who learned Thursday morning that the NYC school reopen date had been pushed back once again due to de Blasio's fears that there aren’t enough teachers to handle both in-class and at-home students.   

NYC Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza told parents leaders on Wednesday night that talks were underway with City University of New York to hire laid-off adjunct professors and graduate students as the new plan to hire 2,500 additional teacher was revealed

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio had previously said that the city will need to bring in 2,000 additional teachers, bringing the total number needed to 4,500 if in-class and at-home live learning was to be successful in the largest school system in the country

Even teachers only learned of the change on Thursday morning. Pictured, Marisa Wiezel, a teacher at Yung Wing School P.S. 124 , prepares her classroom for the 2020/2021 school year

Gathering on the city's Lower East Side, the 200-strong group had harsh words for the mayor and the current reopening plan.

'I wish he'd done it sooner,' said Manhattan mom Catherine Cook told New York Daily News. 'So much planning is needed. My family has to make very quick decisions, it's very disruptive. We're going virtual.' 

Teachers were also unaware of the change, which happened just four days before they were set to return to in-person teaching. They only learned of the delay through de Blasio's announcement. 

'I was in the middle of planning for next week, and then I got a text from a friend saying "OMG this is madness,"' said Annie Tan, a fifth-grade teacher in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

'It's extremely frustrating to get tossed around like we don't matter. A lot of educators are scared they're going to keep pushing back every week,' she added. 

'It's not sustainable. It's just downright disrespectful, all of it.'

'The announcement today is just another slap in the face to public-service-working parents,' Mia Eisner-Grynsberg, a public defender and spouse of a public school teacher whose seven-year-old was supposed to be in class next week, added to the Daily News.

'Having nowhere to send our children when we desperately need them to be educated and not getting an apology from the mayor is just devastating,' she added.

On Thursday morning, the mayor announced that the nation's largest public school district would not welcome all of its one million students back on September 21 as previously planned.

Instead, the district will bring students back on a rolling basis, with preschools reopening next week, followed by kindergarten to fifth-grade schools on September 29, and then middle and high schools on October 1. 

Teachers have protested over the past few days about the changes in reopening

A protest in Union Square called for a more definite plan for reopening

The last-minute shift to a phased return sparked renewed fury and confusion among parents and school administrators already frustrated by de Blasio's repeated flip-flops on the reopening.

Thursday marked the second time that de Blasio has delayed the start of in-person classes, which were originally set to begin on September 10.  

He confirmed that the staffing shortage was one of the major issues driving the latest delay and announced the department of education is hiring an additional 2,500 teachers on top of the 2,000 he said were being added earlier this week.

'When I heard Mark [Cannizzaro] and Michael [Mulgrew] talk about specific school staffing needs that still were not being resolved in time enough, I heard an honest concern,' the mayor said.

'It just was clear to me that we did not have a clear enough number and that we had to agree to a number that folks who had the ability to hear exactly from every school what was going on in a different way that DOE bureaucracy hears.'

He added that it was known the school system would need more teachers to open weeks ago but the true extent of the numbers has only just come to light. 

'We did not have a clear enough number,' he said, claiming that the teachers and principal unions 'had to help us figure out what the true number was and how long it would take to put that number into play'.

Yet both the administrators' union head and the United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew told Daily News that even if the city hit its pledge of 4,500 new staffers by September 29, it will likely only cover staffing needs for a portion of students and will leave middle and high school reopening in jeopardy.

'This number is specifically what we think we need to get moving right now on pre-K, 3-K, District 75, and K-to-eight education. We're going to do another analysis later in the week on middle schools and high schools,' Mulgrew explained. 

New York City public schools will no longer resume in-person classes for all students on Monday, September 21, as previously planned, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday

After the announcement, an outraged New York City principal called for de Blasio and Carranza to be fired over the decision to delay in-person classes yet again. 

The principal, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution by de Blasio and NYC Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, spoke to DailyMail.com on Thursday. 

The principal told DailyMail.com that they were especially shocked because they were not given a heads up about the change and heard about it with everyone else on the news.  

'Governor [Andrew] Cuomo needs to step up and fire Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza. They should be led out in handcuffs for what they have done,' the principal said.   

'They have failed our students and teachers by what they have done. They do not listen to what the schools need. They don't consult us. It is a dictatorship.

'Our school is ready to welcome back children. We have been ready for almost two weeks. How can they do this?'   

The principal branded the mayor and chancellor 'pathetic and incompetent b*****ds' for how they've handled the entire process for reopening classrooms. 

'De Blasio and Carranza have failed the kids of America's biggest city,' the principal said.  

'They are despicable and disrespectful to all of the hard working staff and parents who want their children educated. Welcome to how they have treated principal's throughout the entire pandemic.'

This is a complete and utter failure that rests right at the feet of De Blasio and Carranza. They need to be terminated. 

The principal said they haven't been able to take a single day off since all campuses in the nation's largest school district were shuttered when the coronavirus crisis took hold in March.  

'I come in every day at 6am and leave at 7pm to ensure my school is ready – and it is – yet they pull the rug right out from under us,' they said. 

'These fools should've made the call in May to go all remote from September through January, but they didn't. So we prepared to come back. We are ready.'

'This is a complete and utter failure that rests right at the feet of De Blasio and Carranza,' the principal added. 'They need to be terminated. Our kids deserve better, our teachers deserve better and our city deserves better.'  

De Blasio and union leaders said they switched to phased model for reopening schools because the city needed more time to prepare buildings and recruit more teachers. 

'We are doing this to make sure all of the standards we set can be achieved,' the mayor said, adding that he 'literally made a list of 20 different concerns that we're going to work through to address because they were real concerns'. 

Unions representing teachers and principals in the public school district have warned that schools still don't have the teachers or the coronavirus safety measures that are needed to reopen safely.  

Labor leaders, who had sounded alarms in recent days that the schools still didn't have the teachers or the coronavirus safety measures needed to reopen safely, appeared alongside de Blasio at Thursday's news conference.  

'Opening Monday to everyone would not have been safe for our students,' said Mark Cannizzaro, president of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, the union that represents principals.  

Mulgrew called reopening the school district 'an unprecedented challenge'. 

'We want our school system up running and safe and we want to keep it up running and safe. That's what the families of the children of this city deserve,' Mulgrew said. 

'We are protecting our schools, our families our children and ourselves against this horrendous situation that is known as the pandemic.'

Just last week, Mulgrew posted a scathing nine-minute rant on UFT's website pointing out safety issues that had already arisen since teachers began returning to campus earlier this month to prepare for the arrival of students.

He slammed the Department of Education's failure to properly clean buildings or to provide enough personal protective equipment as he called on educators to broadcast their own concerns on social media so that officials would start paying attention.  

De Blasio and union leaders said they chose to use a phased model for reopening schools because the city needed more time to prepare for the students' return

De Blasio's continuing failure to commit to a plan at the 11th hour has fueled a chorus of critics who say the Department of Education is completely unprepared to bring the nation's largest school district back online amid the coronavirus pandemic

The United Federation of Teachers posted photos of educators working outside last week to highlight anxieties with returning to in-person classes too soon

The news of the delayed reopening was immediately met with backlash on Twitter as parents accused de Blasio and other education officials of ignoring union leaders' concerns until the last minute.  

'NYC Mayor decides less than a week before school opens to delay and phase reopening (advocates made this call months ago),' one man tweeted. 

'This is the height of arrogance and poor planning. We've wasted the last 3 months. Unacceptable.' 

Another critic used de Blasio's own phrase - 'staggered reopening' - against him, writing: 'Mission accomplished: parents, teachers and students staggering away in disbelief.'  

'You had all summer, you delayed opening once already. This failure falls on the Mayor and the Chancellor. Someone should lose their job,' a third user quipped.  

The news was immediately met with backlash on Twitter as parents moaned that de Blasio had months to get schools ready for reopening but failed to listen to union leaders' concerns

Many of the outraged parents pointed out that de Blasio was causing significant harm to powerless children by failing to execute a coherent plan. 

'How are you making these last minute changes three days before school was supposed to start?' a woman tweeted. 

'Do you have any idea how bad this is for the kids who were thrilled to start school on Monday and are going to be crushed when they hear about this delay?' 

'What a monumental bumble! Didn't you know you would need more teachers before now??? What are you 'leaders' thinking????? Obviously not about students and teachers and learning...' a man wrote.  

Another woman wrote: 'My kid is in fourth grade, doesn't know how to read or write, and you expect him to learn remotely... Good luck getting on him when I'm at work... I guess this will be another year wasted for special needs children.' 

De Blasio has repeatedly assured that the city can pull off the hybrid learning system that he announced back in July, which will see 58 percent of students attend classes three days a week while learning at home the other two days.   

On Wednesday the mayor had insisted that in-person classes would start as planned on September 21, as the school year kicked off remotely with three days of online orientation this week.  

'We've said repeatedly it will not be a perfect start,' de Blasio said Wednesday. 

'We'll be making a lot of adjustments in the weeks after we begin to continue to improve things. 

'But the important reality here is to say we're going to be providing the best education possible in person, the best education possible remotely, we're going to keep making improvements as we go along, we're going to keep adjusting and figuring out what we need in terms of staffing.'

A small number of students began returning to physical classrooms on Wednesday for the first time since March, when COVID-19 forced the closure of schoolhouses in New York and much of the rest of the nation.

The reopening comes as an average of about 240 people a day are still being diagnosed with coronavirus in New York City, one of only a few large US cities attempting to start the school year with students in real classrooms. 

The city previously agreed with the unions that there would be monthly coronavirus testing of students and staff, with systems in place to send home classrooms or shut down entire schools if new COVID-19 cases are found. 

De Blasio has repeatedly assured that the city can pull off the hybrid learning system that he announced back in July, which will see 58 percent of students participate in classes both online and in person

The new school reopening plan marked de Blasio's second major U-turn this week.

On Monday he announced that the city had reversed its decision to transfer homeless individuals out of a luxury hotel on the Upper West Side, after some residents protested the transfer and others expressed outrage that the scheme was allowed to continue.

De Blasio said that 'the whole system is being looked at right now' after facing criticism from all sides over his plan to house some 13,000 homeless people in hotels across the city during the coronavirus pandemic. 

In another big move, the mayor revealed on Wednesday that he will furlough himself and up to 500 of his own mayoral staff for a week in a symbolic gesture that will save New York City $860,000 as it faces a budget deficit of $4.2billion.  

The mayor's plan will put 495 City Hall staffers - including his wife Chirlaine McCray -  out of work for a week at some point between October and March 2021.  De Blasio has said that he will continue working without pay during his own furlough.

The decision to put his staff out of a job for a week comes after de Blasio threatened to cut up to 22,000 city employees by next month. He said the furloughs may serve as a 'useful symbol' if the union cannot agree on cost-cutting measures by then.

The pandemic has cost New York City $9billion in revenue and forced a $7billion cut to the city's annual budget. It also needs to plug a $4.2 billion deficit in next year's budget. The city has also asked the federal government for aid, but so far none appears to be coming.  

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