NEW YORK — For months, Mayor Bill de Blasio insisted schools would open on schedule.

But on Thursday, for the second time in 17 days, he pushed back his own timetable.

What You Need To Know

  • Pushing back the start of in-person learning — for the second time — is the latest example of backpedaling by City Hall

  • Earlier this year, the mayor promised 100,000 free child care seats, then revised it to 30,000

  • The DOE also reneged on promises of live instruction for blended remote students

"This is like Ahab with the white whale,” said David Bloomfield, an education professor at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center.

The backpedaling was another example of the mayor over-promising and under-delivering to public school parents, teachers, and students during the coronavirus pandemic.

"It’s been mishandled really from the first. He’s had to walk back any number of promises, the worst of which was yesterday,” Bloomfield said Friday.

In July, the mayor announced free child care for students on days they had learn remotely.

"The goal will be to start by serving 100,000 kids,” de Blasio said about the program, promising to scale it from there.

This month, he walked that back to just 30,000 seats when school begins. He said 60,000 seats would not be available until October, and the 100,000 goal at year's end.

"And he never even admitted really that the 100,000 is far below what’s needed,” Bloomfield said. “So even the overpromises were never sufficient to really make this work.”

This week, the city reneged on another promise: to provide daily live teaching on days so-called blended learning students are scheduled to learn remotely instead of in school.

"This kind of backtracking has been happening all summer,” said parent Deborah Alexander, co-president of Community Education Council 30 in Queens.

The city also abandoned a promise that students going fully remote would be taught by teachers from their own school.

"That was the day before the deadline for parents to make a huge decision to go remote, and then six days later that was suddenly a goal, quote unquote, it wasn’t an expectation we should have, it was a goal,” she said.

City Hall rightly points out that no other major city has tried to have in-classroom instruction this fall.

“We’re reopening the nation’s largest school system in the middle of a pandemic and navigating these unprecedented challenges to deliver the best, safest education possible. To the kids and families looking forward to their first day on Monday, we welcome you, want you to know that our health and safety is our top priority,” spokeswoman Avery Cohen said.

The mayor has blamed delays in opening school on a shortage of teachers necessary to staff smaller classes and remote learning simultaneously.

On Friday, facing a cascade of criticism from parents during his weekly appearance on WNYC Radio, the mayor responded: "This is a greater challenge than anyone foresaw.”

Yet in August, principals in Brooklyn's District 13 warned the mayor of staffing shortages and proposed a phased-in return to classroom learning.

Here's how Urban Assembly Unison School Principal Emily Paige explained it on August 13: "We believe we could have all of them in with a full program running, that blended full program running, by the beginning of October if we’re allowed to use our phasing process."

The mayor's latest promise this week: in-classroom learning will be phased in, by October 1.


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