Students return to classrooms in one week, and principals are scrambling to find enough teachers to educate them.
"The DOE agreed to a plan that everyone knew we would not be able to staff and here we are now, five days out, four work days out, from having the students actually come into the building and this plan can’t be staffed,” said Mark Cannizzaro, principal of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, which represents principals.
As of Monday, 42 percent of students had opted to learn fully online. The rest will attend school in person and online on alternating days.
The Education Department said teachers shouldn't be instructing students remotely and in person at the same time. That requires more teachers, and Mayor de Blasio said more are on their way.
"We're committed to an additional 2,000 educators immediately, and we'll keep working with each school to make sure that what they need is what they get and that we're ready for opening day,” de Blasio said.
The city has not said how many extra teachers principals have requested, but the principals union estimates it's closer to 10,000.
"Some of our larger high schools are requesting over 50 or 60, because that’s just what they would need to meet all of the guidance that was placed out there, which is why it’s unrealistic to expect these numbers are ever going to come to fruition, because we don’t have the money and even if we did, we don’t have the people available to fill all these positions,” Cannizzaro said.
Michael Vlahovic, the teacher's union chapter leader at The New York Harbor School on Governor's Island, said 10 teachers there, out of fewer than 40 total, had been granted medical waivers to work from home.
"The principal requested teachers to fill all those positions. We got three from the DOE and they asked to be creative with programming to solve the rest,” Vlahovic said.
While some schools need teachers to fulfill the DOE’s guidance of having separate educators for online and in-person days of blended learning, others simply need extra staff just to have enough teachers in front of the students attending in person. Something will have to give, Cannizzaro said.
"I want the principals and the school leaders to understand that, make sure they have a teacher in front of every student in the building and then we can worry about the other staff as the time goes on,” he said.
An additional wild card is the health of the teachers. Any teacher who tests positive has to stay away from the classroom for at least two weeks. So far, 55 school staff have tested positive for coronavirus after 17,000 tests.The mayor is downplaying the threat.
"For the very small percentage of people who test positive for the coronavirus, it is a very temporary reality. People will go through that period of safe separation, quarantine and come back and get right back into their job, right back into their studies,” de Blasio said.
But United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said the coronavirus has been a permanent reality for too many families in New York.
"I am hoping that he reflects and realizes that is not something he should be saying after over 20,000 people have died in our city,” Mulgrew said.