Delayed School Year Has Mixed Reactions from Queens Pols

Apple on pile of books at the elementary school
Apple on pile of books at the elementary school. Illustration from 123rf.

No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks — for ten more days at least.

Faced with the possibility of a teacher strike, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday that public schools in the city will begin in-person learning ten days later than planned to give the system more time to prepare to teach during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Lawmakers in Queens applauded the decision saying it was a step in the right direction for keeping teachers, students and their families safe from the virus.

“It is important that educators and families feel safe going back to school,” said City Council Finance Chair Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights, Elmhurst), who taught in a New York City public school for 25 years. “This extra time will allow schools to better prepare for the challenges that lie ahead.”

Instead of the planned September 10 start date for both remote and hybrid learners, remote classes will now begin on September 16 and in-person classes on September 21. Teachers will return to their school buildings on September 8 to undergo health and safety trainings and prepare for teaching both remotely and in-person before the start of the school year. 

But while many praised the decision to delay the school year’s start date, some remained critical of the mayor for taking so long to take action.

“I had been advocating for weeks to delay the opening of schools in order to ensure the safety of children, staff and administrators,” said State Assemblymember Alicia Hyndman (D-Laurelton, Rosedale, St. Albans, Addisleigh Park, Hollis, Springfield Gardens and Jamaica) about postponing the start of the school year. 

While she’s glad the city decided on the later start date, she thinks it’s still insufficient time for schools to prepare for the complications that come with social distancing, and remote and hybrid learning, she said. The start of school should be delayed by month, she said, not ten days.

“No two schools are alike in the public school system. It is not and will not be an easy fix but having the time to is important –– we need more,” Hyndman said. 

State Assemblymember Daniel Rosenthal (D-Kew Gardens Hills, Kew Gardens, Pomonok, Electchester, College Point and parts of Whitestone, Richmond Hill, Briarwood and Forest Hills) said that the delay was a smart decision but that the city should have never have even needed to consider it in the first place. 

“The city’s recent announcement to delay school re-openings is a blatant example of inadequate planning for a virus that has been here for over six months,” said Rosenthal. “New York City should have been prepared with contingencies in place rather than leaving parents, students and teachers in the lurch.”

They had ample time to prepare, he said, but now de Blasio is scrambling.

“The mayor knew of the September deadline but clearly didn’t do his homework,” Rosenthal said.