New York City Public School Parents, Teachers React To Reopening Plan: ‘Shocked Me Completely’

By: Hazel Sanchez

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It’s another change of plans for New York City public schools.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said students will return to the classroom in phases, and many city schools could welcome thousands of students back in just one week.

As CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reports, Janie Hwang has fifth grade twins at PS 41 in Greenwich Village, and a middle schooler at MS 104. She and many parents of hybrid learners say they’re frustrated by the mayor’s flip flopping, closing and then reopening schools in such a short time.

MORE: Mayor De Blasio Announces Phased Reopening Plan For NYC Public Schools; Elementary, Pre-K To Reopen Dec. 7

“The spaghetti theory. Throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks,” Hwang said. “I think overall it’s very haphazard.”

PS 452 was closed Monday on the Upper West Side, but by this time next week, it will be a different story.

“The opening news that I saw yesterday — that shocked me completely,” Upper West Side parent Mohit Bhatia told CBS2.

The parent of two said reopening should be delayed until after the holidays.

“I’m glad it’s opening, but I would have been OK if it was opening after January too,” he said.

On Sunday, the mayor announced he was ditching his original plan to close schools citywide at the 3% infection rate threshold, and instead will close individual schools based on confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Middle and high school students will remain fully remote for now, but Pre-K, 3K and K-5 students can return to in-person learning on Dec. 7. District 75 special education programs go back on Dec. 10, and the mayor says some schools in orange zones will also open under strict state guidelines.

“We intend to work to reopen those schools, hopefully as early as next week, but we have to follow all state guidance,” de Blasio said.

Schools with the space and staff can also move to five days of in-person learning. All schools must test 20% of students and staff weekly, and only students who signed up for in-person learning and have signed testing consent forms or medical exemptions can return.

“That testing will be at the schools,” de Blasio said.

“That might work,” said Upper West Side grandparent Patricia Sylvester.

“We’ve always said from the beginning that nothing is as good as in-person education,” de Blasio said.

While the teachers union leadership expressed support for the reopening, many teachers and counselors are upset they and parents weren’t a part of the decision making.

“Just check in with some teachers about what are the conditions actually like. What are the actual concerns?,” said fifth grade teacher Alexis Neider.

“We feel disrespected.  We are not being consulted or communicated with as professionals,” said Shoshana Brown, a teacher.

“I think it’s reckless,” said teacher Jia Lee. “We weren’t consulted, and this is making us very uneasy about the health and safety of our students, their families, our safety and health and the families that we go home to.”

Urban affairs expert Mark Peters says the city was right to reopen schools.

“I think the failure was not to do the planning that took place over the last week and a half, a month ago, so we never closed schools to begin with,” he said.

Of the city’s 1.1 million public school students, fewer than 200,000 will return to school next week. Parents and teachers say the city needs to do more to improve remote learning so children don’t fall behind.