MICHAEL MULGREW: Need better planning than in March.

The union leaders who represent public-school Teachers and Principals are pushing the Department of Education to expedite plans for summer school and the next school year.

During a May 27 City Council hearing on remote learning, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said that the union has been urging the DOE to determine what learning will look like in the fall for the city’s 1.1 million students, and that the planning process was “way behind” where it needed to be.

Can't Repeat March Madness

The March 15 announcement that schools would close the following day due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus left school staff scrambling to  teach students remotely.

“There was no plan in place, there was no support system in place, there was no training in place. Every school had to figure it out on their own,” Mr. Mulgrew said. “We launched distance learning with little planning—September 2020 cannot be a repeat of that.”

The UFT has advocated that students and staff be required to be tested for coronavirus before schools can re-open for the fall. It launched a radio ad and online petition calling for more Federal funding that would be used to boost sanitizing protocols, cleaning supplies and screening methods at schools.

The union leader has also suggested that if schools were to re-open in the fall, they might need to offer split schedules to allow for social distancing, particularly since many classrooms were overcrowded.

'Listen to Teachers'

Most of all, school staff want a seat at the table when it comes to making these decisions. “You need to listen to Teachers,” Mr. Mulgrew told the DOE officials and Council Members.

There were also questions about what summer school, which is fast approaching, will look like. Summer courses will be conducted remotely, and will run from July 6 to Aug. 11 for third- through eighth-graders and from July 6 to Aug. 14 for grades nine through 12.

The six weeks of classes will be required for 102,000 students and recommended for an additional 75,000, which was twice the typical number.

But some school leaders were concerned that individual schools will not be permitted to operate their own summer programs. Typically, schools have been allowed to teach summer courses, alongside centralized sites that also offered lessons to students from multiple schools.

“Although it is not enough, one of the few things the [DOE] can provide these increasingly demoralized, depressed, and self-doubting students during this difficult summer is a familiar face (even if it is on Google Meet) and a caring community that knows them as learners and people,” stated a letter written by school Principals that was obtained by Chalkbeat.

Waiting for Answers

Mark Cannizzaro, president of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, said his members have still not been given guidance about how they will be involved in summer instruction.

“We still don’t have final answers on what this is going to look like. Running this operation out of central itself, if that is the plan, is not going to work,” he said.

DOE spokeswoman Danielle Filson noted that it was not uncommon for summer-school students to be taught by Teachers they had not previously had.

“While this year’s summer learning will be different in important ways, we’re designing a program that will be as seamless as possible for students” she said. “Our number one goal is to give students the academic support they need, and we look forward to partnering with Principals and Teachers to make that happen.”

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