De Blasio forges ahead with school reopening plan amid teacher and union protests

Just days before the start of a shaky new school year, panicked city teachers protested “unsafe” classrooms Monday, while Mayor Bill de Blasio continued to tangle with union leaders over Department of Education readiness amid the coronavirus.

Teachers from several schools camped out in front of their buildings and vowed walkouts if Hizzoner persisted with the current plan, which involves the start of online-learning-only Wednesday and the reopening of schools for in-class learning as part of a hybrid approach Sept. 21.

“Now that school staff are back in school buildings, it is clearer than ever that the Mayor’s reopening plan is not safe,” said the Movement of Rank and File Educators, a United Federation of Teachers caucus, in a statement.

The group argued that the DOE’s testing and tracing procedures have been inadequate and fail to ensure teacher and student safety. Confirmed virus cases, they said, are not being properly flagged or vetted.

“All have been followed by inadequate contact tracing and a lack of transparency from the DOE,” MORE said.

Teachers at PS 139 in Brooklyn sat in chairs in front of their building and refused to enter Monday morning over what they deemed hazardous conditions.

“There is just not enough transparency right now from the DOE,” said a teacher from the Ditmas school. “Until that happens, I’ll be in my [protest] chair.”

But despite the controversy, de Blasio was resolute Monday in saying the system will reopen as scheduled.

“Of course it will open,” he said. “It’s never going to be perfect, but it will be what schools need.”

De Blasio said 55 city Department of Education staffers have tested positive for COVID-19 out of 17,000 checked for the virus, an infection rate of .32 percent.

“Let’s talk about the obvious — some people will test positive, and those folks will immediately get support,” de Blasio told reporters during his City Hall press briefing.

De Blasio pledged that the city’s contact-tracing efforts “will go into effect right away,” and after those identified are quarantined for two weeks, they “will come back to work, and they will complete the entire school year.”

Some DOE educators recently railed to The Post that they were not notified or contacted by city disease detectives when staffers reported positive coronavirus infections.

De Blasio also announced the launch of a “DOE COVID response situation room” with a direct hotline for city principals.

The center will be staffed by members of the DOE, the city’s Test and Trace Corps and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

But Council of School Supervisors and Administrators President Mark Cannizzaro said the resource should have already been available.

“It is deeply concerning that this support was not already in place when thousands and thousands of educators reported to their buildings to start the school year,” he said.

In a press conference Monday, United Federation of Teachers boss Michael Mulgrew said flatly that school were not ready to open – and highlighted a dire lack of adequate staffing.

“We are having a major staffing challenge in our school system right now,” he said. “We’ve been talking about this for weeks.”

City Hall announced the addition of 2,000 new teachers into the system Monday to address staffing concerns.

But Cannizzaro said the additions were insufficient and that the DOE would need an influx of 10,000 teachers to accommodate current need.

“There is now a week to go before students return to schools, and the City and DOE clearly have no comprehensive plan to fully staff our schools,” he wrote in a letter to city officials.

De Blasio has staunchly backed a partial reopening of in-person learning, arguing that kids will benefit from a restoration of their classroom environment and that parents need scheduling relief.

The mayor has stressed that a clear majority of city families – 58 percent as of Monday – have chosen to send their kids back to school buildings for a portion of the week.

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