On Sunday, March 1, I posted NYC School Admissions… and Coronavirus? asserting that: At press time, there were no diagnosed cases of the novel coronavirus in New York City.
A half-hour later, the first confirmed case was reported. (I never claimed to be clairvoyant.)
My post discussed how several NYC schools had asked families who’d traveled to coronavirus affected areas to voluntarily self-quarantine for 14 days, and how this could be a problem for 4th graders applying to public screened middle schools and 7th graders applying to public screened high schools for September 2021, as attendance is a huge part of the admissions rubric.
NYC schools are obsessed with attendance — and use it to sort kids for admission — because when kids miss school, schools lose money. It’s really that simple.
What’s not so simple is the decision families will be making this month and possibly for multiple months to come about whether or not to send their child to school. Is it just a runny nose, an allergy cough, or is it the beginning of something more serious? Risk possibly infecting others or risk getting eliminated from consideration from next year’s school placement?
My questions struck a nerve. The post was shared widely on Facebook and Twitter.
NYC schools are asking families who have traveled to Coronavirus affected areas to self quarantine. But absences from school will still count against kids. https://t.co/uStrLvr7zX Yes, it's really this dumb.— Karol Markowicz (@karol) March 3, 2020
On March 3rd, the Department of Education tweeted out the following:
In our schools, it’s health and safety first. #Coronavirus-related absences will not impact current applications to middle or high schools.— NYC Public Schools (@NYCSchools) March 3, 2020
I wasn’t the only one confused:
So only kids who are diagnosed with Coronavirus? Only kids who stay home because they might have Coronavirus? Only kids who traveled and are self-quarantining? How in the world will you differentiate? And you mean next year's, right? Because this year's applications are in. WHAT?— NYC School Secrets (@NYschoolSecrets) March 3, 2020
In response to the barrage of questions, a few hours later, they clarified:
This means that current 5th and 8th graders who have already submitted applications for September 2020 don’t need to worry about absences during this school year. https://t.co/rjBFE0446v— NYC Public Schools (@NYCSchools) March 3, 2020
Now, I was no longer confused. Now, I was incensed:
So, literally, absolutely nothing has changed or been affected? Absences NEVER count after acceptance (unless the student doesn't graduate, but that's a different issue).— NYC School Secrets (@NYschoolSecrets) March 3, 2020
And I stayed that way through subsequent explanations:
This… makes no sense. They're saying it won't affect the admissions of kids whom it wouldn't have affected anyway because 2020 placement is due this month? Why… why did they even say this? And if it doesn't apply to current 4th and 7th graders… WHAT?— NYC School Secrets (@NYschoolSecrets) March 3, 2020
Chalkbeat joined me in my anger. So did AMNY. Both quoted my tweets and those of other angry, confused parents.
The pressure continued to build until finally, at a press conference, Mayor Bill De Blasio himself, who, previously, when asked about attendance and admissions said he knew nothing about where current policy stood, declared that:
“Attendance will be frozen as a factor in admissions for the foreseeable future, so as not to allow any impact to this crisis to negatively affect the admissions process.”
As noted in the previous post, objections to attendance being a part of the admissions rubric have been gathering support for years. It is yet unclear whether this might turn into a permanent change beyond the 2020-2021 season.
But what is and should be clear is that the roller-coaster ride of the first few days in March 2020 proved, once and for all, that parent voices DO matter. If there hadn’t been the uproar, odds are everything would have remained status quo.
The uproar didn’t start in the press. The uproar started with parents, which is what made the press sit up and take notice. And when the press takes notice, the government takes notice.
So moms, dads, anyone who cares about educational policy, take a lesson from the above and know that you can make a difference. Stick to your guns, make some noise, and make them hear you!