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Thursday, November 19, 2020

Advocates For Children Fight Mayor on Closing the NYC Public Schools

Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza [photo: Paul Martinka]

When the schools close, parents and students are harmed.

Students with disabilities and those without access to wifi or ipads don't have the access to education that is promised to them, for multiple reasons.

It seems to us that the political-education-complex listens to collaborators in funding as well as the best interests of favorite friends when making important decisions to close the public school system. The NYC Mayor and Chancellor certainly do not consider the hardships that they are pushing onto parents with their policies.


The NYC Department of Education Brings Chaos To High School Admissions and Student Records

  Betsy Combier

Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials  

11.17.2020 | Today, Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), issued the following statement in response to the possibility of a systemwide shutdown of New York City’s schools:

Educating children is one of the most essential services the City provides, and the Mayor should do everything possible to keep schools open while keeping school communities safe.

As the Mayor has noted, nothing can adequately replace in-person instruction. Remote learning has been disastrous for many students, including many students with disabilities, English Language Learners, and students experiencing homelessness. With a COVID-19 positivity rate well below the 9% threshold set by the State for school closures, and with bars, gyms, and indoor dining continuing to operate, the City should reexamine the need to close schools systemwide and should instead continue using a more targeted approach to closing individual schools when necessary.

While most students are only attending school on certain days each week, we are working with some families whose children with significant disabilities are attending school every day. After months of remote learning, these children are finally starting to make progress. And we continue to hear from families that they want more in-person instruction because remote learning does not work for their children. The Mayor must consider the enormous impact on these students – and the disruption to children and families – of a sudden systemwide shutdown.

While the City should do all it can to avoid a systemwide shutdown of schools, here are steps the City should take as it prepares for the possibility of closing schools:

  • The City should ensure that students with disabilities, students who are homeless or in foster care, and English Language Learners can continue to have the option of in-person instructional support, including access to in-person services for students with disabilities.
  • The City should expedite the delivery of iPads and significantly increase tech support. Tens of thousands of students are still waiting to get an iPad from the City, and others can’t get their iPads to work. Many students in shelters still can’t use their iPads because their shelters don’t have Wi-Fi or sufficient cellular reception. Getting tech support from the DOE can take weeks or months.
  • The City should establish a transition period prior to closure and ensure that schools have sufficient time to create printed materials for students and get them to students’ homes. Asking parents to rush to schools to pick up materials the afternoon before schools close is not feasible for many families and will leave behind students from historically marginalized communities. 
  • The City should develop and implement strategies to improve online learning.
  • The City should communicate with families in their language and not rely on e-mails written in English to let families know what is happening and how to get help. The City should ensure families without e-mail access have a way of reaching school staff when schools are closed by using, for example, a call forwarding system.
  • The City should expand Learning Bridges sites or other child care programs and must ensure these programs are prepared to serve all students, including students with disabilities.

The City should also provide another chance for parents to opt into blended learning this year. Having the opt-in period take place while the Mayor was warning of a possible systemwide school shutdown discouraged some parents from opting in even though remote learning has been difficult for their children.

The City must fight back against COVID-19 and avoid a repeat of the spring. But the Mayor noted today that schools have been “incredibly safe.” The City should avoid a system-wide closure unless absolutely necessary after exploring all possible alternatives. Children have already lost months of educational time they can never get back. Schools should be one of the last places to close—not the first.

NYC to shut down in-person learning after surge of COVID-19 cases

Selim Algar, NYPOST, November 19, 2020

Schools out — for the foreseeable future.

The New York City public school system will be closed for in-person learning starting Thursday due to rising COVID-19 rates, Mayor de Blasio said — leaving many parents furious.

With the city’s average infection rate hitting 3 percent over the past seven days, the in-building activity will be “temporarily” suspended, the mayor said.

All students in the nation’s largest school district will now learn remotely from home — and it’s not clear when they’ll get back to class.

“So many parents right now are saddened and frustrated their kids can’t go to school tomorrow,” de Blasio said Wednesday afternoon, after delaying a press conference on the issue for five hours.

“So many kids want to be in school. So many educators want to be there to greet them. But now we put ourselves to the work of overcoming this challenge.”

Parents expressed anger and frustration at the latest curveball from City Hall.

“Horrible. I’m a kindergarten mom, so it’s really hard for the little kids,” Diana Loffredo, 36, whose son, Liam, is in kindergarten at Brooklyn’s PS 127. “I know a lot of us aren’t too happy. We’ve been following the protocol. We’ve been doing the right thing. I just feel like we are being penalized. It’s not really fair.”

Shamsuddeen Aldubai, 41, who has two kids at the school also fumed.

“The kids want to be around their friends and at school,” he said. “They don’t want to stay at home. They want to go to school to get an education. Online school is not as much as they get at school.”

The order will impact the roughly 300,000 city students still currently enrolled in City Hall’s blended learning format that has kids alternate between home and classroom instruction.

Roughly 700,000 students are already on a fully remote schedule and do not go to their buildings.

The mayor’s commitment to the 3 percent kill switch has met resistance from critics who view it as an arbitrary and outdated indicator of a COVID-19 surge.

While he said he would defer to de Blasio on city school closures, Gov. Cuomo has argued that the number was established months ago and that more informative data has evolved since.

Sources said Wednesday that the United Federation of Teachers has been firm in maintaining the 3 percent threshold that was negotiated with the city.

Citing coronavirus safety concerns, vocal union factions lobbied hard against a school resumption in the weeks leading up to the partial reopening in late September.

“The city established the 3 percent infection rate threshold to make sure that schools did not become centers to spread the coronavirus,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said in a brief statement Wednesday. “Since the 3 percent rate has been reached, education will continue but all students will be learning remotely.”

De Blasio did not offer a timetable for a reopening or specify the circumstances that would enable it.

“To protect school communities we are going to have to put additional measures in place,” he said when asked by reporters when kids could be back in class. “We’re talking with the state right now on what those should be.”

Many parents have also noted that City Hall had consistently touted the safety of in-person learning in recent weeks.

According to the Department of Education, random internal testing of students and staffers in city school buildings consistently yielded minimal infection rates hovering around 0.19 percent.

De Blasio has argued in recent days that adhering to the 3-percent cutoff signaled his seriousness about containing the virus.

Already dazed by whipsaw policy throughout the tattered academic year, some parents began formulating a protest at City Hall soon after the announcement was made.

The group cited “hard data collected since the start of school establishing that the safety measures implemented in city schools have made schools, as the mayor has said, ‘extraordinarily safe’ for both teachers and students.”

De Blasio said he regretted having to take the action Wednesday but was satisfied with the overall arc of his schooling policy given the challenges posed by the coronavirus.

“We came back from the worst of this disease,” de Blasio said. “Overcame that, became one of the safest places in the country, opened up the nation’s largest school system, made it extraordinarily safe. But we’re also living by those cautious conservative standards.”

Additional reporting by Carl Campanile, Nolan Hicks, and Rachel Green