The nation’s largest school district, joining the actions of many school districts in the country, pushed back the start of the school year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, The New York Times reports.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the first day of classes would be September 21, 10 days later than the date originally planned for the district’s 1.1 million children. In-person classes are expected, and schools need the extra time to prepare for the arrival of students and staff in the school buildings.
“For the nation’s largest school system to come together in unity and say, ‘We are going to get it right, and it won’t always be easy and there’ll be tough moments along the way, but we’re going to get it right,’ that’s a statement,” the mayor was quoted as saying.
News reports show a calendar that has students on campus for about half as many days as they would be during a normal school year, and many parents have expressed dismay over the delays in announcing the reopening plan after what was a long summer with limited information coming from the school district.
Some teachers still threaten to strike in order to keep students out of school buildings, even though a strike by teachers’ unions isn’t legal in New York.
Many school districts in large urban areas, including Chicago and Los Angeles, reversed plans for in-person learning, resorting to a virtual learning environment, at least until they have time to re-evaluate the situation later this fall. Many rural districts are also using remote learning via Zoom, Google Meets, or other online platforms.
With New York City bringing students back onto campus, school leaders can be expected to watch carefully, drawing on New York’s successes and avoiding the failures, as they evaluate their own reopening plans.
Happiness and Joy
Whether on September 21 or on September 11, whether virtual or in-person, it is most important to keep joy and happiness front and center for students, most of whom truly enjoy school and love to be with their friends and teachers.
Leighton Taylor, a writer for The Eagle’s Eye at Oak Mountain High School in Birmingham, Alabama, says he hopes students and staff at his school stay six feet apart, wear masks, and keep two spaces in between themselves and their friends at lunch.
“Please just be safe and follow the rules! While they may not be ideal, they really do make a big difference,” he writes. “The more sanitary and cautious we are, the sooner things will get back to normal. Then we can have Soar 60, pep rallies, and everything else we all enjoy!”