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NYC delays in-person classes, institutes monthly testing to avoid teachers strike

New York City will delay the reopening of in-person instruction in its schools until Sept. 21 and implement monthly testing to avoid a teachers strike, officials announced Tuesday. 

New York City Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioVideo shows NYPD officers using patrol vehicle speakers to share 'Trump 2020' message Median rent in Manhattan falls below ,000 for first time in nearly a decade De Blasio's obsession with racial balance in schools has a clear victim: Asian students MORE (D) said during a press conference that city officials and the city’s teachers union, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), reached a deal to push back the start of the school year to allow educators more time to prepare for the reopening of the country’s largest district. 

Under the new plan, the city’s children will not have in-person learning until Sept. 21, and most children will not start remote learning before that time as well. 

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“What we’ve agreed is to make sure that the health measures are in place, to make sure there is time for the appropriate preparation for our educators, to make sure that we can have the smoothest beginning of the school year even under extraordinarily challenging conditions,” de Blasio said. 

Students were initially supposed to attend in-person classes starting on Sept. 10, but the city has now scheduled four more designated preparation days for educators.  

De Blasio announced that the city will make free testing available every month at every school. In addition to the more than 200 testing locations in the city, mobile testing vans and testing tents at schools will be used.

“They’ve agreed on a plan that makes sure testing happens on an ongoing basis, but I want to emphasize, in a way that is convenient and easy and straightforward for everyone in the school community and of course is free,” the mayor said.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew praised the new agreement, saying it gave the city’s school system “most aggressive policies and greatest safeguards” out of any other in the country.

“This is what I would hold up as an example for other places to look at on how people are supposed to get things done,” he said.

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UFT said in a statement that in order to reopen, buildings will have to follow a 50-step checklist. Monthly testing is mandatory and will randomly test 10 to 20 percent of all students and adults.

Staff that refuses the tests will be put on unpaid leave. 

The plan indicates those who test positive will be required to participate in remote learning while they are quarantined. 

UFT had moved toward a potential strike after its executive board unanimously voted to set up a strike authorization vote if union officials didn’t reach a deal with the city by Tuesday afternoon. The teachers strike in New York would have been the first since 1975, as public employee strikes are illegal. 

New York City’s school district is one of the largest districts in the country set to reopen partial in-person instruction. The district will permit some students to learn remotely every day, while others can participate in a hybrid model of attending classes in person part of the time.

De Blasio has pushed for partial in-person classes to continue, saying Tuesday that “nothing replaces in-person learning.” But other large districts in the U.S. have shifted to online classes over concerns of spreading the coronavirus.

—Updated at 1:24 p.m.