de Blasio
© Reuters/Jeenah Moon
Mayor de Blasio tours New Bridges Elementary School ahead of reopening.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has postponed school reopening for most students a second time, just days before kids were set to return. Parents and teachers who already planned their lives around the schedule aren't happy.

Instead of returning to the classroom on Monday, elementary school students will come back on September 29, de Blasio announced in a Thursday press briefing, enraging parents and teachers alike with the eleventh-hour delay. Middle and high school students won't return until October 1 under the new schedule.

It's not the first time de Blasio has pushed school reopening dates forward. City students were initially supposed to return to the classroom on September 10, and the mayor repeatedly affirmed the date was set in stone in the preceding weeks, despite pushback from teachers, before postponing it at the last minute.

This time, he isn't even pretending it's a sure thing, telling reporters "We could always learn something new that might cause additional adjustment." However, he attempted to shift the blame for the delay onto the teachers' unions, which had been complaining that schools weren't ready to reopen for weeks.


The mayor revealed an additional 4,500 staffers would be hired from the ranks of substitute teachers and other teacher's union professionals though that is far short of the 10,000 additional staff requested by the city's schools.

Of New York's 1.1 million school-age children, just 58 percent have opted to attend in person, with the rest taking classes online in what the city has referred to as a "blended" format. Even students attending in-person will only be in school a few days a week, as de Blasio has pledged that full-time in-person schooling will have to wait until a vaccine for the novel coronavirus is developed.

While few children have fallen ill with Covid-19 for reasons which aren't fully understood, they are believed to be able to transmit the virus. Making matters even more confusing, online classes will begin as originally planned on Monday, Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza clarified on Thursday — meaning students without internet access may start the school year several days behind their tech-enabled classmates.

The extra staffing and other Covid-19 school safety measures will cost the city an extra $32 million every week, according to the Independent Budget Office.

De Blasio has attempted to reassure parents their kids will be safe at school during the pandemic with a variety of safety measures, promising to shut down in-person classes if the citywide infection rate breaks 3 percent on a seven-day average. Teachers, who threatened to strike in August over what they claimed were lax, vague pandemic containment measures, are encouraged to get tested for Covid-19 on a monthly basis.

Parents who'd already had their schedules upended once were livid, calling for de Blasio's firing — and worse.

One principal — who understandably wished to remain anonymous — called the mayor a "pathetic and incompetent bastard" and a "dictator," calling for him to be "led away in handcuffs," according to the Daily Mail.

Others took a more measured approach, noting that the citywide infection rate was both low and stable and the city's education department had had months to figure out its policy. New York City schools switched to remote learning in March as the city locked down for the pandemic.