N.Y.C. Will Again Delay Start of In-Person Classes for Most Students

The city had scheduled classes to start on Monday. Now, students will be allowed to return on a rolling basis, beginning with those in pre-K.

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N.Y.C. Delays In-Person Classes for Most Students a Second Time

Mayor Bill de Blasio halted plans to begin in-person classes for all New York City public schools, shifting to a phased reopening schedule starting with pre-K and students with advanced special needs.

So here is the updated approach we will take, and it involves several phases. They move quickly and therefore we’ll be able to serve children and families well. But they will include some adjustments compared to the previous schedule. So here’s what we’ll do. Beginning this Monday Sept. 21, three-K and pre-K early education sites will be open, pre-K and three-K classrooms will be open, District 75 schools, schools that serve our special education kids, kids who need a lot of support and love, those schools will be open. We then will have the next phase on Tuesday, Sept. 29, when K through 5 schools and K through 8 schools will open. And then on Thursday, Oct. 1, middle schools and high schools will open. Now this means the in-person learning, obviously remote learning has begun already. The orientations have begun, remote learning will continue throughout for all students as these phases come into play.

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Mayor Bill de Blasio halted plans to begin in-person classes for all New York City public schools, shifting to a phased reopening schedule starting with pre-K and students with advanced special needs.CreditCredit...James Estrin/The New York Times

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday once again delayed the start of most in-person classes in the New York City public schools, acknowledging that the system had still not fully surmounted the many obstacles that it faced in bringing children back during the pandemic.

The abrupt announcement was a blow to the mayor’s effort to make New York one of the few major cities in the nation to hold in-person classes. And it threatened to deepen concerns and confusion over whether the mayor and his administration had mishandled the reopening by announcing deadlines and then pushing them back.

Instead of a triumphant return to schools for all students who wanted in-person learning beginning on Monday, the city will phase students back into classrooms on a rolling basis, starting with the youngest children, who will report to schools next week. Students in pre-K classes and students with advanced special needs will return on Monday.

On Sept. 29, elementary schools will open, and middle and high schools will open on Oct. 1.

All other students will begin the school year remotely on Monday, meaning New York now joins a long list of other big cities that will begin the school year online for most students.

During a Thursday news conference, Mr. de Blasio declined to apologize to city parents for the potentially major inconveniences caused by the 11th-hour shift. He asserted that, because the city’s public school parents were largely low-income and lived outside of Manhattan, “they are people who understand the realities of life, and they’re not shocked when something this difficult has to be adjusted from time to time.

“They’re a lot more pragmatic than you might imagine,” the mayor added.

That comment offended some parents. “Yes, I consider myself strong and resilient, but you do not play games with children’s education,” said Stacey Skiadas, who lives in northeast Queens.

Mr. de Blasio said that the further delay would help the city handle a major staffing shortage in schools and would ensure that buildings could open safely. “We are doing this to make sure that all the standards we’ve set can be achieved,” he said.

Parents, educators and elected officials almost immediately reacted to the news with outrage and confusion. Many principals and teachers only heard about the shift from the news, they said in emails shared with The New York Times, and many parents said that the decision had eroded their trust in the public school system.

ImageAt Hunter College High School, teachers and parents protested on orientation day to demand health and safety protections.
Credit...Brittainy Newman for The New York Times

“It is mid-September and there is still no plan on how to educate children,” said Natasha Capers, a public school parent and activist who lives in Brownsville, Brooklyn. She called the delay “a punch in the gut.”

Mark Treyger, the chair of the City Council’s education committee, said, “The mayor of New York is the last person in the room to recognize facts on the ground, and his stubbornness and inability to make sound decisions in a timely fashion cannot be overlooked during this pandemic.”

The mayor said that he decided to delay the start of the school year and opt instead for a phased-in reopening after a three-hour conversation at City Hall on Wednesday with the leaders of the unions representing the city’s principals and teachers, along with senior mayoral aides.

Those union leaders have been explicitly warning for weeks that schools were not ready to reopen for myriad reasons, from poor ventilation in some aging buildings to a severe staffing crunch that the principals’ union estimated could leave the city needing as many as 10,000 educators. A Thursday report from the city’s Independent Budget Office put that number closer to 12,000. Some principals have said in recent days that they lacked dozens of teachers for their schools.

Mr. de Blasio said that the teacher shortage was his main reason for again delaying in-person classes. But he did not explain why he waited until just before the start of the school year to acknowledge the seriousness of the staffing issue, even though union leaders and his own aides have been raising alarms about it for weeks.

The Daily Poster

Listen to ‘The Daily’: A Messy Return to School in New York

As the United States’ largest public school system vows to let students return to the classroom, the run-up to the first day of school through the eyes of one teacher illustrates what these plans involve.
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Listen to ‘The Daily’: A Messy Return to School in New York

Hosted by Michael Barbaro, produced by Kaitlin Roberts, Sydney Harper and Luke Vander Ploeg, and edited by Lisa Tobin

As the United States’ largest public school system vows to let students return to the classroom, the run-up to the first day of school through the eyes of one teacher illustrates what these plans involve.

[music]

michael barbaro

From The New York Times, I’m Michael Barbaro. This is The Daily.

archived recording

We’re full steam ahead for September. The goal, of course, to have the maximum number of kids in our schools as we begin school.

michael barbaro

Amid a raging national debate over how to safely reopen schools, the nation’s largest public school system, New York City, has pledged to let every student return to the classroom, citing months of low infection rates.

archived recording

Nothing replaces the in-person experience. There are some out there who suggest that remote education should be our future. And I want to say, no, it can’t be.

michael barbaro

But from the start, it’s been a messy process. Families are deeply divided about whether to send their children to school for two to three days a week, what the city is calling blended learning, or to opt for fully remote learning.

archived recording

I don’t see enough information for me to make a decision yet. So what’s the schedule? I mean, how is it going to work with lunch? I mean, all this stuff just is not clear.

michael barbaro

While teachers fear that they aren’t fully prepared for either option.

archived recording

I’m pissed off. You would think that with the challenge that we are facing, the city would have brought it’s A-game And they didn’t. They just didn’t.

michael barbaro

Today, what the run up to the first day of school has looked like through the eyes of a single teacher, Iolani Grullon, who spoke to The Daily’s Lisa Chow.

It’s Friday, September 18.

archived recording (lisa chow)

I’ve just come out of the 181st subway station. And I am headed to meet a teacher. Is that her?

Hi. How are you?

archived recording (iolani grullon)

Good. How are you?

archived recording (lisa chow)

Good. My name’s Lisa.

archived recording (iolani grullon)

Hi, Lisa. How are you? I’m Iolani. I’m doing well, thank you.

archived recording (lisa chow)

Yeah. I like your mask. [LAUGHS]

archived recording (iolani grullon)

Thank you.

archived recording (lisa chow)

OK. So let me— so why don’t you just tell me, like, where we are right now?

archived recording (iolani grullon)

So we’re in front of PS 48 on 186th Street and Broadway in Washington Heights. And this is where I teach kindergarten dual language.

archived recording (lisa chow)

And how long have you been working here?

archived recording (iolani grullon)

This is my 15th year— [BACKGROUND CONVESATION]

archived recording (lisa chow)

At this school?

archived recording (iolani grullon)

Mhm. This is Ms. Frances.

archived recording

I’m so camera shy.

archived recording (lisa chow)

Hey. No cameras. Just audio.

archived recording (iolani grullon)

Oh, even better. Wonderful. This is my good friend and colleague.

archived recording (ms. frances)

Hi. I’m Ms. Frances. I’m Iolani’s good friend and colleague. [LAUGHTER]

archived recording (iolani grullon)

Are you walking with me?

archived recording (lisa chow)

I’m going to walk with you.

archived recording (iolani grullon)

All right. Cool.

archived recording (ms. frances)

OK. See you soon.

archived recording (iolani grullon)

I’ll call you tonight, Ms. Frances.

archived recording (ms. frances)

OK. OK.

archived recording (lisa chow)

OK. So actually, let’s just first describe what we’re doing here. So I have a mask on. You have a mask on. We’re walking to your home. And have you been doing this walk every day during training?

archived recording (iolani grullon)

I haven’t done it every single day, but mostly.

archived recording (lisa chow)

Yeah.

archived recording (iolani grullon)

I feel a little antsy getting on the bus. I mean, it makes me anxious to get— to be in the building as well, you know. And every day, we hear, you know, oh, another school has positive cases. Oh, another school has— I mean, I don’t even know what number we’re up to at this point. I think it’s, like, 55 teachers. And you know, they’re expecting that. And they’ve said they’re expecting it.

archived recording (lisa chow)

So the conversation among teachers, I mean, what has that been like? Like, what are people feeling?

archived recording (iolani grullon)

Anxious. There isn’t a lot of direction. The difficult part, what we were talking about today, some of my colleagues and I, spending the entire day in a mask is really hard. I can’t even imagine, like, teaching kindergarten through a mask. I have to do letters and letter sounds in two languages. Because I’m a dual language teacher. So I teach in English and in Spanish.

archived recording (lisa chow)

How does the mask complicate things?

archived recording (iolani grullon)

Well, because they can’t see my mouth. I think I’m going to get one of those with the clear plastic or where the lips are. Maybe I’ll invest in some of those.

archived recording (lisa chow)

What do you think you would need to be— like, what do you think the schools would need to be ready?

archived recording (iolani grullon)

We need to go remote for a little bit. You know? I’m listening to doctors and scientists. I know that’s, like, controversial these days. But what I’ve been reading, experts are saying that we need to brace ourselves for this fall and winter. So why not? We still have time to come up with meaningful remote lessons, learning. We can meet about it. We can create things together. We’ve been so busy cleaning classrooms and setting them up like it’s a regular school year. It feels like the higher ups are in denial.

archived recording (lisa chow)

What do you mean? Well, we’ve been putting together our classrooms as if it were a regular year. Meanwhile, we’ve also been told, be prepared to go remote at any given moment. How can I prepare to go remote at any given moment if I’m busy setting up a room? I don’t even know. I’m not even sure what’s going to be allowed. I heard a rumor, I read it somewhere. I don’t know how true it is. That we’re not going to be giving students paper and collecting paper from them. So what am I doing? Am I teaching them on an iPad. I don’t know. I don’t know that yet. So what have your feelings been over the course of the past week and kind of coming into this week?

archived recording (iolani grullon)

I go through waves of, like, anxiety, to being hopeful that it works out, to just being worried. Am I going to be prepared?

I need to know what I’m doing when I’m teaching in person. Like, is there somebody that’s going to be teaching those kids when they’re home, the kids that are blended, but when they’re home, am I going to be responsible for that? How am I going to pull that off?

archived recording (lisa chow)

It’s like three different jobs.

archived recording (iolani grullon)

Yes. Yes, it is.

archived recording (lisa chow)

It’s the full remote, the in-person, and then, the blended.

archived recording (iolani grullon)

And then the blended remote. Yes. And I think about that. Like, my eyes will pop open at 3:30 in the morning and that’s it for me. I’m awake. You know? And then my own, of course, personal situation, where I can’t bring this to my daughter. And I could be asymptomatic and bring it home. And that is what weighs on me the most, of course. Oh my goodness.

archived recording (lisa chow)

OK. So we just have arrived in your apartment building?

archived recording (iolani grullon)

Yes. This is my building.

[DOOR OPENING] Hey. Please come in. I’m just going to wash my hands, Lisa.

archived recording (lisa chow)

Can you just walk me through your routine?

archived recording (iolani grullon)

So I’m washing my hands. Usually when I get here, I go immediately to take a shower. But I’m not going to make you wait. So since I’m not going to do that today, I make sure to wash my hands. As a matter of fact, I usually take those shoes off and leave them by the door. Because my routine is to just go straight into the bathroom and shower and spray some Lysol in there. This is Leila.

archived recording (lisa chow)

Hi, Leila.

archived recording (iolani grullon)

Leila, that’s Lisa.

archived recording (lisa chow)

Hi, I’m Lisa. Yeah.

archived recording (iolani grullon)

She’s recording. I want you guys to say hi.

archived recording (lisa chow)

It’s just audio. It’s no video.

archived recording (iolani grullon)

It’s not your face.

archived recording (lisa chow)

Hi, I’m Lisa.

archived recording (iolani grullon)

These are two 13-year-olds, Lisa.

archived recording (chloe)

Hi.

archived recording (lisa chow)

What’s your name?

archived recording (chloe)

I’m Chloe.

archived recording (lisa chow)

And what’s your name?

archived recording (leila)

Leila.

archived recording (lisa chow)

OK. Hi, Leila.

archived recording (iolani grullon)

And let’s go to— let’s go sit in the living room, because it’s easier. We’re going to sit here, because I can socially distance with Lisa from here.

archived recording

Yeah, go ahead.

archived recording (iolani grullon)

So can I sit on one end of the couch [SPEAKING SPANISH].

Lisa, come in.

archived recording (lisa chow)

OK.

So tell me about your kids.

archived recording (iolani grullon)

So my kids are great. They’re very independent. Liam is an amazing big brother. You know, he’s very attentive with his sisters. He will be in charge of remote learning, ‘cause he’s learning remotely. So they’ll be home together, the three of them. The girls are obviously not going to go into the buildings. Chloe, being immunocompromised, it’s not advised that she go in the building. So they’re going to be learning remotely.

archived recording (lisa chow)

And so on the walk, you were talking to me about how this is weighing on you, obviously. And we didn’t get into it much. But can you talk to me a little bit about that, in terms of just your work and thinking about your family? Like, what keeps you up at night?

archived recording (iolani grullon)

Possibly infecting my daughter, absolutely, that’s number one. She was born with a congenital heart defect. She had her heart transplant at about 15 months old. Even though she has a heart transplant, she’s a healthy girl. But you know, there have been a lot of bumps in the road as well. There have been times that we’ve done Christmas in the hospital for different things or whatever. Whenever she does have a fever, I have to bring her to the emergency room. She can’t just, like, sit out a fever at home. She can’t do that. So whenever she does—

archived recording (lisa chow)

And why is that?

archived recording (iolani grullon)

Because you don’t know what it could be from. It could be her heart. I mean, rejection could sometimes show in a fever. So yeah. But taking care of her and her heart is a full-time job as well.

archived recording (lisa chow)

So this is something that you live with day in and day out.

archived recording (iolani grullon)

Yes. I’m very stressed out by it. Because I know for a fact that Chloe wouldn’t do well with COVID. She just wouldn’t. I don’t even like to really think about what could happen. But I know what could happen.

archived recording (lisa chow)

Let’s go back to the end of the school year. So back in June when school wrapped up, what was the message coming from your principal, from the mayor? Were city leaders basically saying, we’re going to be opening in person? Or—

archived recording (iolani grullon)

There was no message. There was no message. Nothing was said until about maybe sometime in late July. The mayor announced, we will be reopening.

archived recording (lisa chow)

Do you remember what your reaction was?

archived recording (iolani grullon)

Yeah. Complete disbelief — I could not believe that they were going to open this way, with no real concrete plan, just pick a model. Let us know what the model is. And make it work. And principals then decided which of the models their school would be using as far as blended and remote. Families were told, your children can be remote only. But schools couldn’t go remote only.

archived recording (lisa chow)

But teachers couldn’t?

archived recording (iolani grullon)

Right.

archived recording (lisa chow)

When the mayor announced that schools would be reopening and have a blend of remote, in person, and you were in complete shock, after that, then what happened? And you have this situation at home, you know, with your daughter, like, were you reaching out to the D.O.E.?

archived recording (iolani grullon)

I filled out an application for remote accommodations immediately. They came out— I believe they came out July 15, a few days after the announcement was made. So teachers could apply for remote accommodations based on their own health. I applied anyway. And I submitted a letter from my daughter’s transplant team. Immediately denied, because I’m not the one at risk. But it just doesn’t make sense. When you look at the C.D.C. list of possible health issues that you have in order to receive remote accommodations, at the very top, one of the top three things is immunocompromised because of a solid organ transplantation. It literally says it. OK. So I’m not the one with the solid organ transplantation, but my daughter is. And we’re dealing with a highly infectious virus. It just doesn’t make any sense. It doesn’t make any sense. My daughter’s— one of her cardiologists, actually, asked me the last time we spoke, are you going to stay home? And I was, like, no. They were, like, what? Are you really? Do you need a letter? What do you need? And I was, like, no. You guys have given me what I would need. But it’s not— it’s not enough.

archived recording (lisa chow)

So it’s just denied. It was flat out denied.

archived recording (iolani grullon)

It was just flat out denied. And I’ve had advocates that have pushed for me from the city. And the city has told—

there’s a person that has been pushing for me. I taught her daughter. Coincidentally, she happens to work for a New York senator. Coincidence, right? And she said to me that when she’s asked about it or pushed for it, what the city has said to her, the D.O.E. has said to her, is that teacher sure she doesn’t have one of these listed conditions? It’s, like, of course, I’m sure. Who wouldn’t be sure of their own health? Are you trying to get me to come up with a condition? Like, what are you doing? Why would they ask are you sure? That’s been twice. Yes, I’m sure. You know, I’m not going to lie. I do not smoke. And thankfully, I am healthy. My daughter’s condition should be enough.

archived recording (lisa chow)

So you think that they’re trying to push you into saying that you have one of these conditions so you can get exempt, but not tell the truth, which is that you don’t have these conditions but your daughter does?

archived recording (iolani grullon)

Yeah. What are you supposed to make of that?

archived recording (lisa chow)

Well, it sounds like they might want to help you, but also, you know, they’re trying to follow the rules.

archived recording (iolani grullon)

Mhm. It’s just not the way things are supposed to be done.

michael barbaro

We’ll be right back.

archived recording (lisa chow)

So you’re asking for an exemption, but I’m just wondering, do you feel that teachers, if they didn’t have high risk people living at home with them, and they didn’t have these conditions listed on the C.D.C. website, do you think that they should be teaching in person?

archived recording (iolani grullon)

No. They should not be in person teaching. It can be done remotely. And it can be done well remotely. All we needed was some time to get it done and some real training on it. And maybe the city buy a platform for it that everybody can use or have a choice of platforms. There are so many resources out there. And the city chose not to.

archived recording (lisa chow)

Do you know your schedule next week yet?

archived recording (iolani grullon)

No. I don’t, not yet.

archived recording (lisa chow)

So there could be days where— I mean, are all five days, are you going to have some sort of in person interactions?

archived recording (iolani grullon)

Yes.

archived recording (lisa chow)

Or are there going to be some— oh, yes.

archived recording (iolani grullon)

Next week, as in the week of the 21st? Yeah, they’re coming. The kids are coming. I’m getting Group A on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. And then Group B Thursday, Friday, and the following Monday.

And then Group A again, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and then Group A. What job can anybody have where they say, hey, I need two days out of the week off, some weeks three days? What days? I don’t know. It’s going to constantly rotate. What job is going to do that for people? How are people going to go back to work?

archived recording (lisa chow)

How fraught does this moment feel for you, in terms of just conversations with your non-teacher friends? Like, conversations with friends who are parents who are really struggling at home with kids because their kids are learning remotely? Does it feel sometimes like there’s just a constant running tension sometimes between parents and teachers?

archived recording (iolani grullon)

Yes. Yes, there is. You know, especially under these circumstances. There are people out there and parents out there that think that, oh, teachers are putting up a fight because they don’t want to go back to work. These parents, I think some of them are under the assumption that we were home doing nothing in the spring, when that is not the case.

We were home behind the computer. And some of us were very anxious about just our computer skills and feeling like, oh, my God. Am I doing enough? Am I doing enough? Am I doing enough? That was the running question in my mind all day everyday during the spring. Am I assigning enough? I don’t want it to be too much. It is a pandemic. But I don’t want it to be too little, where it seems like I’m not doing my job. It’s just crazy. And yeah, there have been parents who have made some comments, like, you know, like, we just don’t want to go to work.

That’s not the case. Remote was not easy. So it’s not a walk in the park to go remote, either. It’s just about safety at this point. This is like a cluster— [LAUGHS] —you know what I mean? Gosh. It’s so disorganized. But here we are, running back to school six months in.

And I feel, like, you know, if I were the mayor and I opened up New York City schools, the largest school district in the nation, that would look pretty cool on my resume, on my political resume.

archived recording (lisa chow)

Mhm. So you think this is a political move for him?

archived recording (iolani grullon)

Partly, yep. I do.

archived recording (lisa chow)

In terms of the question of kids falling behind, you know, that is a concern that Mayor de Blasio has talked about, kids falling behind. You know, the number of kids in— especially in New York City, the number of kids that are poor, the number of kids that are with special needs, and this idea of being out of school with out in person instruction since March. But what do you think of that?

archived recording (iolani grullon)

Well, I think that those are real concerns especially around the area of the students with special needs. OK? But we are in a global pandemic. So when we think about kids falling behind, yeah, it is a real concern. And I get it, because I’m a mom, too. But I also think about it as a teacher. Falling behind what? They’re home, safe, healthy, and alive. If your kid’s alive and healthy, we can work on it.

archived recording (lisa chow)

How are teachers communicating with each other during this time?

archived recording (iolani grullon)

Well, those of us that know each other personally, you know, we call. We zoom. We have group chats going. We have a page on Facebook for teachers only where you can post anonymously or you can comment on somebody’s post.

And this is how we find out about a lot of the other conditions in other buildings, aside from our own. You know?

archived recording (lisa chow)

Do you want to read some of the comments that you’re reading?

archived recording (iolani grullon)

Yeah. Somebody wrote today, you know, “Day five in the building and no temperature checks. What are we waiting for?” “Anybody else’s protective plexiglass not clear? Can’t see out of it.” Somebody wrote, “I still don’t know what I’m teaching. I have spent almost 100% of my time getting devices ready for and out to families.” “Teaching a new grade. I’m so overwhelmed and so confused.” That’s another one. And then there’s also this going on.

archived recording (lisa chow)

What’s this?

archived recording (iolani grullon)

This is people are also posting about the people that we lost in the union, you know? And posting pictures and just saying, you know, we should be thinking about them at this time, too, you know? Which is true. Which is true.

archived recording (lisa chow)

What is that, specifically? Do you want to read that one?

archived recording (iolani grullon)

This one is about a teacher. I’m not going to say her name. But she was 52-years-old And she was a wonderful teacher, active, enthusiastic member of the school community. She mentored new teachers. She reached out to students with disabilities or those having a difficult time at home and was always there to applaud performances. Just, you know, what a wonderful person she was. It’s a long, long post. And she passed away on Saturday, April 4, 16 days after schools were closed. That’s heavy.

And the whole thing has been out of the mayor’s mouth, kids need this. They need it. They need it. They need it. Yes, they do. I— I agree. At what cost?

archived recording (lisa chow)

You ever think about getting sick?

archived recording (iolani grullon)

Yeah. I’ve thought about it.

Of course I’ve thought about it. I’m just so overwhelmed with Chloe’s situation, that I haven’t given much thought. You know, it’s not written anywhere that if I do get sick that I’m not going to be the one to have a hard time with it. So yeah, I mean, I’ve thought about it. Of course I have. But you know, my immediate thought is, oh, my God. If I do, I’m going to bring it home. That’s my more immediate thought always, about bringing it home. And what if I have to quarantine because I’ve been around someone or one of my students and say, oh, they closed down my class. Where do I go do that? I’ve already came up with a plan with my coworker that you met, because she’s one of my very best friends. I’ve said to her, if I call you and I tell you that I have to quarantine before I can go home, you have to go and get my kids out and get them to pack. We’ll put them in an Uber, airport, and they’re going to North Carolina. That’s where Liam’s father lives.

archived recording (lisa chow)

And that’s your plan?

archived recording (iolani grullon)

If I have to quarantine, they got to get out of here. Because where am I going to go? I can’t go quarantine in somebody’s house. I’ll put them in danger. So if I have to quarantine, they gotta go before I walk in the house. That’s a ridiculous way to live.

archived recording (lisa chow)

And quarantining, that just means that a kid in your class tests positive?

archived recording (iolani grullon)

Or was exposed, and they decide that we need to all quarantine. Yes.

archived recording (lisa chow)

I mean, that could very well happen.

archived recording (iolani grullon)

Oh, absolutely. Of course, it could happen. Of course. I mean, our numbers are good. But they’re not zero. So it absolutely could happen, absolutely. at any given moment I could have to quarantine because of either the class, or maybe the school itself, whatever the reason. And if I have to quarantine, they got to go.

archived recording (lisa chow)

You feel very strongly about that?

archived recording (iolani grullon)

Yes. I will not quarantine with my kids in this house, especially not with Chloe in this house, absolutely not. Absolutely not.

[music]

archived recording (bill de blasio)

So this morning I start with our clear strong dedication to our public schools and to in-person learning.

michael barbaro

On Thursday, two days after Lisa spoke with Iolani Grullon, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio delayed the start of in-person classes.

archived recording (bill de blasio)

But I also want to be clear and very straightforward about the fact that real concerns have been raised by my colleagues.

michael barbaro

During a news conference, the mayor acknowledged that the city had failed to overcome the obstacles to bringing students back and that teachers and administrators were not yet comfortable with the city’s preparations.

archived recording (bill de blasio)

Yesterday morning, they reached out to me. And they said they had real concerns about specific things that had to be done to make sure our schools could start effectively, start safely. And although they acknowledged that some real progress had been made, that not enough had been made, and more had to be done to make sure that things would be as strong as they needed to be.

michael barbaro

Instead of opening on Monday as planned, elementary schools, including Grullon’s class, will open on September 29. Middle and high schools will open even later, on October 1.

We’ll be right back.

Here’s what else you need to know today.

archived recording (olivia troy)

I have been a Republican for my entire life. I am a McCain Republican. I am a Bush Republican. And I am voting for Joe Biden. Because I truly believe we are at a time of constitutional crisis.

michael barbaro

In an unusual move, two former Trump administration officials are endorsing Joe Biden, saying that President Trump has badly mismanaged the pandemic and the presidency.

archived recording (olivia troy)

It was shocking to see the president saying that the virus was a hoax. Saying that everything’s OK when we know that it’s not.

michael barbaro

The officials are Josh Venable, former chief of staff to Betsy DeVos, the secretary of education, and Olivia Troy, a top homeland security aide to Vice President Mike Pence, who recorded a video explaining her decision.

archived recording (olivia troy)

The truth is, he doesn’t actually care about anyone else but himself.

michael barbaro

And officials in New Jersey have agreed to adopt a so-called millionaire’s tax to alleviate shortfalls caused by the coronavirus in what may become a model for budget-strapped states across the country.

archived recording

We do not hold any grudge at all against those who have been successful in life. But in this unprecedented time, when so many middle class families and others have sacrificed so much, now is the time to ensure that the wealthiest among us are also called to sacrifice. And literally—

michael barbaro

The measure would tax earnings over $1 million at 10.75%, up from the current rate of 8.97% and is expected to raise nearly $400 million over the next year.

The Daily is made by Theo Balcomb, Andy Mills, Lisa Tobin, Rachel Quester, Lynsea Garrison, Annie Brown, Clare Toeniskoetter, Paige Cowett, Michael Simon Johnson, Brad Fisher, Larissa Anderson, Wendy Dorr, Chris Wood, Jessica Cheung, Stella Tan, Alexandra Leigh Young Lisa Chow, Eric Krupke, Marc Georges, Luke Vander Ploeg, Kelly Prime, Julia Longoria, Sindhu Gnanasambandan, MJ Davis Lin, Austin Mitchell, Neena Pathak, Dan Powell, Dave Shaw, Sydney Harper, Daniel Guillemette, Hans Buetow, Robert Jimison, Mike Benoist, Bianca Giaever, Asthaa Chaturvedi, Rachelle Bonja, and Liz O. Baylen. Our theme music is by Jim Brunberg and Ben Landsverk of Wonderly. Special thanks to Sam Dolnick, Mikayla Bouchard, Lauren Jackson, Julia Simon, Nora Keller, Mahima Chablani, and Des Ibekwe. That’s it for The Daily. I’m Michael Barbaro. See you on Monday.

The problem highlights the profound logistical challenges inherent in hybrid education, which are even more pronounced in a sprawling system of 1,800 schools.

City students can only report to school buildings one to three days per week, to allow for social distancing, and were set to receive classes at home the rest of the time. But since the city and teachers' union agreed that educators should not be required to teach both in-person and remotely, schools essentially needed to create two sets of teachers for two complementary versions of schools, one in-person and one online.

It was impossible for many schools to do so with their current rosters, even after Mr. de Blasio announced earlier this week that he was adding 2,000 educators to the city’s teaching pool. He said on Thursday that the city would come up with another 2,500 teachers soon.

Late on Tuesday evening, the city announced that the staffing shortage meant that it could not longer require schools to offer live instruction to students who chose hybrid education on the days they are learning from home. That could mean that a student who has only one day a week of in-person classes will not receive any live instruction for the rest of the week.

Despite the teacher shortage, the administration has been threatening to impose layoffs across all city agencies, including the Department of Education, as a result of the enormous budget shortfalls created by the pandemic.

No large district in the country has yet attempted to reopen schools on a hybrid basis, and New York’s challenges may discourage other systems from trying a similar approach. The nation’s other large school systems decided earlier in the summer to start their school years remote-only, but none have a virus transmission rate as low as New York’s.

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Credit...Pool photo by Bebeto Matthews

More than 1 million parents in New York City have been desperate for clarity on school reopening since June. On Thursday morning, confusion and frustration played out in living rooms and playgrounds across the city.

“It’s such a slap in the face,” said Mia Eisner-Grynberg, a public defender who was planning to send her daughter back to elementary school in Washington Heights next week.

Ms. Eisner-Grynberg said she has court dates next week, and her husband, a public school teacher, is supposed to be in his school building. They do not know if the city’s child care programs will still be operating next week, and she feels her family has run out of choices.

“It’s such a fiasco,” she said, adding, “You can laugh or cry, those are the only options left.”

Over 40 percent of parents have already opted out of in-person classes, and that number is likely to grow, reflecting families’ deep frustration about the city’s reopening effort and skepticism about schools’ readiness.

Mara Tucker of Morningside Heights said she did not know how to explain the delay to her son, who is entering first grade.

“I wish I could tell you,” she said she told him when he asked why he would not be returning to school next week. “I don’t want schools to open if they’re not safe, but get it together,” Ms. Tucker said.

And Joseph Edelson, an 11-year-old who attends school on the Upper West Side, said he had just been video-chatting with his friends about how excited they were for the first day of school.

“When you’re away, you realize how much you miss school,” he said. Now he will have to wait until at least late September to see his friends.

Asked Thursday what his message was to city parents just learning about the delay — the vast majority of whom are low-income and Black or Latino — Mr. de Blasio responded, “I feel for any parent that has to make new arrangements.”

He added: “I know that people will do what they have to do.”

The city’s child care crisis was only compounded by the day’s news.

Marilyn Martinez, a delivery person for UPS who lives in Harlem, said she has been saving up money for babysitting during the pandemic. She and her wife, who works at a hospital, have no choice but to report to work. But if schools continue to be delayed, Ms. Martinez said, “I don’t know what I would do at that point.”

The city’s high-stakes reopening effort has been plagued by intense political opposition and serious logistical hurdles throughout the summer. Scores of educators have raised pressing safety concerns about ventilation and personal protective equipment and have said for weeks they were not ready to reopen.

“Everything seems rushed,” Megan Jonynas, a music teacher at Public School 139 in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, said earlier this week. “Everything seems last minute. We are not ready.”

Hundreds of city principals, many of whom have spent their careers avoiding political fights, publicly pleaded with the city for weeks to delay the start of in-person classes. Shortly after Thursday’s announcement, Michael Perlberg, the principal of Middle School 839 in Kensington, Brooklyn, wrote on Twitter: “I’m beginning to think this is part of a secret plan to mentally and emotionally break me.”

And teachers said the city’s early attempt to trace the relatively small number of teachers who tested positive for the virus — just about 60 people out of 17,000 — was botched, and that educators working in buildings with positive cases were not contacted by disease detectives for hours or days.

Regular coronavirus testing of students and staff was not scheduled to begin until October.

There is no guarantee that schools will physically reopen as planned. If the city’s average test positivity reaches 3 percent, schools will automatically shut down or will not reopen. The average positivity rate has hovered around 1 percent or lower in the city for the last few weeks.

Meanwhile, many New York students in private and parochial schools have already resumed in-person classes. The city’s charter schools, some of which have opted to start the year remote-only, will have the option of starting in-person classes on Monday, even though district schools will not.

Jeffery C. Mays, Emma G. Fitzsimmons, Sharon Otterman, Juliana Kim and Dana Rubinstein contributed reporting.