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Angered teachers union factions are ramping up pressure on city officials to adopt remote learning amid an ongoing “nightmare” of COVID-19 infections in city schools.

Progressive and left-leaning elements within the United Federation of Teachers have amplified their calls to temporarily shutter schools after the DOE recorded more than 12,000 new teacher and student cases Monday.

With Mayor Eric Adams staunchly opposing any school closures and UFT boss Michael Mulgrew avoiding a war of words with City Hall, some union groups are intensifying their tactics.

Roughly 50 school staffers and others gathered at the Barclays Center Wednesday to call for a temporary shuttering.

The Movement for Rank and File Educators, a progressive UFT faction with a voluble social media presence, has repeatedly blasted both Mulgrew and City Hall for failing to protect their interests.

“This is a nightmare,” said protest participant and teacher Annie Tan. “We’re literally sitting ducks. We are trying our best, but we have no staff at our school, combined classrooms. It’s not tenable. We can’t keep going like this, and the mayor is delusional to think it can continue like this. Hundreds and thousands of students are absent.”

The teachers group and other UFT factions were galvanized this week after the Chicago teachers union, which represents educators in the nation’s third-largest district, voted not to work inside buildings late Tuesday.

Approximately 50 - 70 teachers, and people who support teachers, gathered at the Barclays Center to protest the working conditions at the public schools during COVID.
Progressive elements of the United Federation of Teachers are calling for a temporary switch to remote learning as COVID cases surge in NYC.
Gregory P. Mango

That move forced Chicago city leaders to transition the system of 300,000 kids to remote learning Wednesday.

The Detroit Public Schools Community District opted last week to go fully remote through at least Jan. 4.

“Politicians and Department of Education officials dismiss our concerns about the city’s failure to take even the most basic health and safety precautions as the pandemic takes over our city once again,” MORE member Will Johnson wrote recently.

But the Barclays protest drew notably fewer participants than similar teacher protests in 2020 that called for a delay in the reopening of schools due to COVID-19 concerns.

In one rally that year, a sizable crowd of teachers massed outside former schools Chancellor Richard Carranza’s apartment in Brooklyn and shouted their arguments over megaphones.

“This is a large union,” noted a union source. “People have to remember that. Sure, you have a lot of groups that make a lot of noise and get likes and retweets. But that’s not enough to force a closure or spark a strike. Not even close.”

City teachers saw steep absentee rates in the first few days of the new semester this week, with union sources estimating that 25 percent of educators have not shown up to school this week.

Approximately 50 - 70 teachers, and people who support teachers, gathered at the Barclays Center to protest the working conditions at the public schools during COVID.
Some UFT members said the demonstrators only make up a small part of the large union and don’t represent the majority of city teachers.
Gregory P. Mango

Student absentee rates have also risen sharply, with one in three kids failing to appear in class on Monday.

“In a way, we’re already in a state of remote learning,” said one veteran Brooklyn teacher. “You have a hell of a lot of schools with less than half of their kids coming to class. The only difference is they are at home not doing much of anything instead of having an organized remote learning setup in place.”

Mulgrew told members that he asked Adams to shift to a remote format until staffing stabilized prior to the resumption of classes this week.

“We advised the new mayor that it would be safest to allow our school system to go remote temporarily until we could get a handle on the staffing challenges that each school is about to face as we return,” he wrote last weekend. “However, he feels strongly that schools need to remain open.”

Follow the latest news on the Omicron variant with the New York Post’s live coverage

Adams — along with schools Chancellor David Banks — reiterated his commitment to keeping schools open this week amid spiking COVID-19 rates and absences.

Hizzoner has argued that kids are safest in school and that remote learning inflicts the heaviest damage on low-income kids who rely on their schools for more than just instruction.

“Every school is open today because our Stay Safe, Stay Open plan is working,” said DOE spokesman Nathaniel Styer. “It’s the most ambitious school opening plan in the country, and it keeps our schools the safest place for New York City kids.”

Mulgrew has insinuated that the nation’s largest teachers union would more strenuously object to keeping schools operational if conditions worsen.

He has highlighted the risks posed by staffing shortages and said this week that closures would be unavoidable at a certain point.

But union sources said that Mulgrew isn’t eager to collide with Adams this early in his administration and will continue to restrain his rhetoric — at least for now.

Adams has insisted that he and Mulgrew are working in concert on keeping schools open.

“There’s no battle between Michael Mulgrew and Eric Adams,” he told CNN this week. “And I’m not going to submit to people believing that there’s a conflict between the two of us when we speak three times a day.”

Another union source said that only a limited segment of city teachers would be willing to stage a strike if it isn’t sanctioned by the union.

Source: NYPOST

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