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Andrea Gabor

Lessons From New York City’s School-Reopening Fiasco

Central administrators haven’t done nearly enough to help principals and teachers find their own best ways to cope with the coronavirus.

Nobody said it would be easy.

Nobody said it would be easy.

Photographer: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

New York City, the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic last spring, and the largest public school district planning to begin at least some in-person instruction, has botched its reopening plans for the fall. Its mistakes are a cautionary tale for school systems across the U.S. that are struggling to balance the benefits of resuming their educational programs against the risks of spreading Covid-19.

Piecemeal planning and poor communication by the New York City education department prompted pleas from dozens of principals, districts and community councils to push back the opening date, and, finally, provoked the threat of a teachers’ strike. Mayor Bill de Blasio and the United Federation of Teachers eventually agreed to a delayed reopening, buying teachers about a week of planning time for what in most schools will be a mix of in-person and online education.