NEW YORK — Overcrowding in the classroom is the top problem cited by many to getting children back in schools this fall.
To try and reduce class sizes, NYC Council members are introducing legislation to make it part of the city’s health code. The idea is backed by UFT head Michael Mulgrew.
More than 200 New York City schools are over capacity, creating a logistical nightmare for principals trying to prepare for another school year in a pandemic.
“We are facing a September opening with overcrowded schools,” notes Mulgrew. “The answer from the city is to let the school figure it out. That’s not acceptable.
Principals have sent out letters saying all students won’t be able to fit in the classroom while adhering to a social distancing rule requiring students to be three feet apart.
They are considering teaching mixed grades in cafeterias.
“Principals will be using auditoriums, some will be using hallways, libraries, common space art rooms, just to comply with public health code,” said Council member and Education Chair Mark Treyger. “Is this the school system you want?”
Treyger is proposing legislation to have one person per 35 square feet in the classroom, more than double the current health code standards. Most classrooms range in size from 500 to 750 square feet. These guidelines would allow anywhere from 14 to 21 students in a classroom.
This would force the city to add schools or purchase or lease new space. They might also add annexes to existing buildings. It would also require more teachers.
Parents have already shared their frustrations with the mayor dragging his feet to announce school safety guidelines for September, only saying officials are monitoring CDC guidance.
Mulgrew says that despite the delay in direction, he is still confident students will return to the class room five days a week this fall.
According to the city’s department of education, class sizes were well below the UFT’s contractual limits for the past two years and averaging 23 kids per class in grades K-12.