Jeffery White teaches ninth grade special education math and science at Sunset Park High School in Brooklyn. He described the start of remote teaching -- with teachers in empty classrooms, but students at home -- as disorganized and stress-inducing.
There are constant changes to schedules and class assignments, he said, and serious difficulties in communicating those changes to parents and students.
"It's very hectic because teachers are assuming so much more responsibility than we should have to," he said.
The nation's largest school district, which teaches over 1.1 million students, opened for in-person classes Monday for students in 3K, pre-K and District 75 schools, which teach special education. The rest of students began the school year fully remote with expectations of a phased in-person opening next week.
That was the second such delay in the past few weeks, and the back and forth has rankled parents hoping for a clear plan.
De Blasio acknowledged the "whiplash" of the last-minute changes but said they were pushing forward.
"I think they understand we are going through a pandemic, they understand that everyone is working nonstop trying to fix these really complex problems, and I know they will find a way forward," de Blasio said.
Karla Moncada, who lives in Brooklyn, told CNN her 13-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter began classes remotely on Monday. She said she has felt overwhelmed trying to balance her own responsibilities with her children's school needs, and frustrated by the repeated last-minute delays.
"We're definitely not ready to do this. I feel it's a failure. They should just stop and get a real plan and help support teachers that are going through so much right now," she said. "It's crazy for us, I can't imagine how crazy for teachers it is."
"My day was pretty much being a first-grade co-teacher for my little guy," she said.
Struggles with technology and resources
The start of every school year is stressful, but the Covid-19 pandemic has made this one uniquely difficult.
He was assigned about 25 students for his virtual class -- but he has only taught about half or less than half so far.
Meanwhile, he and other teachers have had to take on administrative and programming roles, including emailing with parents, even though they may not know the actual plans. During an orientation Q&A with students last week, White said he couldn't answer 90% of the questions asked.
He said he is hopeful that the situation will improve over time, but for now, he has to remind himself of his motto: "It is what it is."
"When I say that to myself, I say things are out of my control, out of my hands. I'm looking forward to the day things get better and I'm in my routine and all my responsibility is to teach and serve Special Education students I have been put into my schools to serve," he said. "I can only imagine what the students are going through."
Moncada said she has seen the stress in teachers' faces and she thinks this unsettled opening has been tough on everyone.
"I think it's unfair for them, for us, for everyone," she said.
Covid-19 remains top of mind
Still, with all the logistics issues, Covid-19 remains the primary concern.
The possibility of an outbreak spreading from those in school into the community remains top of mind.