After staffing shortages continued to plague New York City’s school reopening plan under the demands of its blended learning model, the Department of Education announced a last-minute policy shift aimed to address the issue the night before virtual orientation began.
Students who opt for blended learning will no longer be guaranteed live instruction on the days they’re learning remotely from home.
The city’s blended learning plan arranges for most students who opt in to attend in-person classes between one and three days each week and virtual classes for the rest of their schedule. The city had maintained up until Tuesday night that it would require a separate staff to provide live instruction for students learning remotely in addition to in-person teachers. Under that plan, students would keep an certain amount of live, or synchronous, teaching time each week
On Tuesday DOE officials loosened that requirement so that on remote learning days, students will not be guaranteed live instruction under the condition that the school does not have staffing to provide it.
“What we’ve chosen to do is be honest and transparent with the public and say to folks our goal has always been synchronous instruction every single day,” said Schools Chancellor Carranza in the mayor’s virtual press conference on Wednesday morning.
The new guidance, which NY1 first reported, could potentially result in a situation in which students don’t receive any live virtual instruction for days at a time. That asynchronous form of instruction will involve prerecorded lesson plans and assignments.
The added “flexibility” will likely disappoint parents who want their children to maximize virtual face time with their teachers. In the most crowded schools, which abound in Queens, students will only have one day of in-person learning per week.
The DOE is insisting that its goal is still to offer live instruction even on remote days, but the staffing constraints made it necessary to give schools an alternative way to operate.
Asked about the change on Wednesday morning, Mayor de Blasio insisted that the reinforcements who will make more live remote instruction possible are on their way.
“Even in a regular school year without a pandemic, they’re adding staff into schools even a few weeks into the school year,” he said.
Principals and union leaders have been raising concerns over the staffing shortages caused by the blended model consistently for the past month. Though de Blasio announced that the city will deploy an additional 2,000 educators into schools this week, the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, the principals union, calculated that it would need an additional 10,000 teachers in order to meet the need.
Though more and more parents have opted for remote-only learning, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said that it is unlikely to be enough to make the mayor’s plan work.
“The 2,000 is clearly not going to be enough,” he said in response to de Blasio’s announcement.
On Wednesday, De Blasio indicated that he is prepared to continue hiring more staff as the school year gets under way.
“If we need to go deeper into our substitute pool we will. There’s thousands and thousands of substitutes ready to go and we can bring them on,” he said.