Angry and fearful, New York City public school teachers have been demanding that Mayor Bill de Blasio close the schools to prevent the spread of Covid-19. But de Blasio is resisting the call to shutter the schools because of what it would do to the rest of the city’s vast infrastructure.
In an appearance on MSNBC on Saturday, Mayor de Blasio stuck to his guns about keeping schools open.
Closure would cause “a cascading effect,” impacting the subways and hospitals because transit and health-care workers would stay home with kids, de Blasio said.
He also noted that hundreds of thousands of teenagers would be left unsupervised, and could be unsafe or get in trouble on the street.
Now, the teachers union wants to take matters into their own hands. As attendance at public schools has plummeted, teachers are calling for a mass “sickout” to bring their concerns home to de Blasio.
Meanwhile, hundreds of public school teachers are planning to stay home on Monday. A faction of the UFT called MORE: The Movement of Rank and File Teachers held a conference call Saturday to organize what they’re calling a “sickout.” Organizers say 400 teachers were on the call.
“We’re in this moment where we’re all coming to grips with an unfathomable reality,” said MORE member Liat Olenick. “Nobody wants schools to close. Nobody wants to put staff in that situation. Nobody wants to put the families in that situation. But we’re in a crisis, it’s an emergency, and the mayor and the city and the governor should be thinking about what keeps the most people safe.”
Olenick, who said she’s at higher risk because of pre-existing health issues, stated concern for staff is part of what’s driving the strike. “There are teachers or lunchroom/cafeteria workers or custodians who fall into the category of being especially vulnerable to the virus,” she said. “It’s probably thousands of people.”
Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, asked parents to get in on the protest by calling “311” to demand a school shutdown. He also sent a scathing email to parents, calling the mayor’s decision to keep the schools open “irresponsible.”
“Because of his irresponsible decision to keep the public schools open, Mayor Bill de Blasio can no longer assure the health and safety of our students and school communities.”
“The mayor is recklessly putting the health of our students, their families, and school staff in jeopardy by refusing to close the public schools.”
The way things are going in New York, events will probably overtake any decision de Blasio makes about keeping the schools open. Attendance on Friday was 68 percent of capacity after being at 85 percent the previous day with numerous teachers already calling in sick. De Blasio is about to become as unpopular as Typhoid Mary if he doesn’t get in step with his constituents. They are telling him to close the schools. Whatever reason had had for keeping them open has disappeared with the city and state preparing to go into lockdown.