Happy first day of fall. The morning air is crisp, the leaves are changing but the city’s 1 million public school children are, for the most part, not back to school. Color us shocked.
Folks are confused as to wtf is going on in the nation’s largest school district. What happened?
According to Mayor Bill de Blasio, it came down to a shortage of educators. To remedy that, the city will enlist 4,500 more teachers. Schools will pull from current Department of Education staff and substitute teachers, and work with CUNY to find graduate students and adjunct professors — as de Blasio put it, “people who know how to teach.”
This is the second time the city has delayed the start of in-person learning, leaving parents and teachers scrambling. De Blasio basically blamed poor communication for the 11th-hour change, saying “the information flow about what exactly was needed where needed to be improved.”
If only someone were in charge of that.
Pre-K children were able to resume in-person learning yesterday, as were students with “advanced disabilities.” K-5 and K-8 schools are to resume in-person learning on September 29, and middle school and high school students, as well as transfer and adult education, will follow on October 1.
Those buildings that have already opened don’t inspire confidence in what’s to come. Teachers and parents are in an uproar over Hunter College Campus Schools’ decision to resume in-person classes last week. Concerns:
- There was no random Covid-19 testing.
- There were no inspections of ventilation systems in each room.
- There was no contact tracing.
There are protests.
People gathered outside Hunter last week and said they were all kinds of mad that CUNY campus leaders were making choices that could put staff at risk. One such choice: not using public health thresholds to gauge when to reopen.
For the children, too, there have been hiccups: The city is asking little ones to bring their own devices. But even if they have access to laptops and iPads, does it make sense to expose kids to the risks that come from in-person schooling if most of that schooling relies on tech?
Even education experts can’t keep track. Sarah Garland, local mom and the executive editor of the Hechinger Report, an education news outlet affiliated with Columbia University, noted, “parents immediately began freaking out” when 5-year-olds were told to bring devices to school. She followed up with some fiery words for the mayor and chancellor saying they have doomed schools “by taking the preexisting problem of vastly insufficient resources and adding in the complete erosion of confidence (and sanity) of the families who pay taxes, vote and trust you with their kids.”
The mayor (who never puts his foot in his mouth) was generally unapologetic for the delay, contending that New York City public school parents are “pragmatic.”
“They’re overwhelmingly working class people and lower income people and certainly some middle class people as well,” he said. “They’re overwhelmingly outer borough residents, they’re people who understand the realities of life and they’re not shocked when something this difficult has to be adjusted from time to time.”
We’re unmuting to say we’re not so sure about that. What do you think, parents? How are you handling all the uncertainty? Let us know — we want to hear from you. We hope to begin sign-ups for our schools newsletter, Homeroom, next week. Stay tuned.
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