As middle and high school students in New York City return for in-person learning on Thursday, it appears that there could already be an imminent wrench in the works.
And that’s coming straight from none other than a top teachers union boss.
United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew issued a thinly veiled legal warning to Democratic New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday, according to the New York Post.
Mulgrew voiced concerns over the rising number of COVID-19 cases in various parts of the city.
“The mayor is continuing to say [that all public schools in the five boroughs would open or none at all],” Mulgrew said. “That doesn’t work for us. And if that means we have to go to court or do something else, we will.”
Mulgrew is aiming to have at least some of the schools in neighborhoods with rising COVID-19 numbers return to remote learning only.
Given the multitude of noted issues with remote learning, a protracted legal battle could be one of the last things students need.
Mulgrew’s apparent threat toward de Blasio comes just days after he even admitted that elementary school-age children were able to return to school “largely without incident.”
“Today’s reopening was largely without incident, and in cases where there were problems — for example, six schools did not have a nurse — we were able to resolve them,” Mulgrew said in a statement Tuesday.
To be fair, Mulgrew also alluded to the rising infection rates on Tuesday.
“We worked hard to get our public schools to a safe place and so far there has been no indication of widespread infection in school buildings. But the same cannot be said for some zip codes in New York City, where the infection rate is escalating,” he said.
“According to Mayor de Blasio, the citywide coronavirus infection rate has now reached 3%, driven by much higher infection rates in certain zip codes where the infection rate has ranged from more than 3% to nearly 7%.
“The city’s plan has been to switch to remote instruction for all students if the citywide infection rate reaches 3% on a seven-day rolling average, But the city can’t sit by and let the virus spread in these or other zip codes for days until it drives the overall city rate above the seven-day threshold.”
The potential legal move is not particularly surprising, given that Mulgrew already seemed open to closing schools again.
“We have advised the city that if infection rates in these areas cannot quickly be contained and reduced, the city must adopt a strategy to close public facilities — including the more than 80 public schools — in these hard-hit neighborhoods,” he said Tuesday.
“We cannot put the entire city at risk by allowing COVID rates to rise.”