What’s Next?: Schools plan for comeback

Stephon Johnson | 6/18/2020, midnight
The COVID-19 pandemic sent the world in a tailspin. The loss of jobs. The loss of lives. Employees obligated to ...
Kelvin Brown Jr. and Jasmine Armstrong Contributed

The COVID-19 pandemic sent the world in a tailspin. The loss of jobs. The loss of lives. Employees obligated to travel to work because their job is “essential.”

Other professions have managed to make the transition to working at home. For teachers, working from homes poses a challenge. The connection to students is part of learning. If that’s gone. What’s the next step?

According to United Federation of Teachers Pres. Michael Mulgrew, the next step consists of a chessboard––with different moving parts––all towards the same goal.

Mulgrew told his constituents that it wouldn’t be a traditional school year. In order to follow social distancing guidelines provided by the U.S. Center for Disease Control, the number of people in each school building will be smaller than normal. Schools will have to house a lower number of employees and students then they’re used to. Close contact, if any, will be minimal. This is why, according to Mulgrew, school attendance will be on a rolling basis so that the learning doesn’t stop.

“That’s why we have gravitated to a hybrid model of learning in which students are in schools for part of the time and continue learning remotely for the rest,” wrote Mulgrew. “A team approach probably makes the most sense with one set of staff members assigned to work with each cohort of students. The number of cohorts at each school will be determined by how many people your school building can safely accommodate combined with decisions regarding the use of nontraditional space for instruction.”

New York City is usually entering the last two weeks of the school year around this time. Despite the usual end of schools sullied by COVID-19, the UFT still has to assist certain demographics.

Within the next two weeks the UFT has to determine what the summer will look like for special education students. Mulgrew said he’s working with the powers that be to come up with the best outcome for all.

“...[O]bviously as we figure out what’s happening with the coronavirus, which is far from certain, as you can see,” said Mulgrew. “But in terms of the fall I’ve had this conversation in great detail with our Chancellor Richard Carranza and our First Deputy Mayor, Dean Fuleihan and a lot of other members of our team. The goal is to get the maximum number of kids back into our school buildings, where they can learn best, but that goal is wholly contingent upon the health dynamics. We have three months until school reopens. So, three months to see whether we beat back this disease more, or whether we are dealing with unfortunately, a resurgence. We’re going to make decisions based on health and safety first.”

Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza announced a similar approach to the upcoming school year sending a framework to the city’s education community of what the 2020-21 school year would look like. He stressed the importance of suppling school employees with personal protective equipment, school supplies and consistent monitoring of employees’ health. This school year comes with the expectations of being chameleon-like in its approach.