The mayor’s intense desire to provide in-person learning led the city to underestimate the obstacles to bringing kids back.

Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

Mayor Bill de Blasio, First Lady Charlene Chirlane McCray, and Chancellor Richard Carranza welcome Pre-K students back to school at the Mosaic Pre-K Center in Queens on Monday, September 21, 2020.

New York City is in the midst of the longest and weirdest school opening ever—highlighted by a six-day delay to starting online classes, a last-minute announcement of what online learning would look like, and then a shift to a staggered schedule for launching in-person learning over the course of two weeks. 

As some of the youngest of the city’s nearly 1 million public school students began part-time, in-person attendance this week, the Department of Education announced that some 46 percent of students had opted for a fully remote schooling, a share that swelled over the past week. It was perhaps an indication of flagging confidence in the mayor’s ability to get schools up and running.

Chalkbeat’s Reema Amin joined WBAI’s Max & Murphy Show on Wednesday to discuss where the reopening stands, what challenges lie ahead, and what explains the tumultuous path New York’s school reopening has traced.

“What’s been clear is the mayor has been really intent on opening buildings, and he’s said it’s because kids deserve to have some in-person instruction after such a wild, traumatic spring,” Amin said. “But it seems like that may have gotten in the way of just addressing concerns that have been really clear from the start. We knew the hybrid schedule is inherently complicated and inherently calls for more teachers—that has been apparent for months and principals have been raising those concerns for months and the union devised a staffing plan that deepens that need and, again, people knew that.”

“School leaders have told us maybe if they had just planned from the summer that we’re going to not open until October and figure things out that way, maybe that would allowed people to plan,” she continued. “I think maybe there were a bunch of things here that were foreseen for a very long time that just were not addressed until now and perhaps it was some wishful thinking that ‘We’ll come together we’ll figure this out in time.’”

Hear our conversation below, or check out the full show, which includes an interview of State Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris about the next steps in the city’s economic recovery, the debate over giving the city new borrowing powers, the need for state antitrust rules and the legacy of last year’s Amazon HQII collapse.

Chalkbeat’s Reema Amin on NYC’s Rough Restart of School

Max & Murphy Full Show of September 23, 2020