In response to last week’s post, Everything We Don’t Yet Know About NYC School Reopening 2021 (But We’re Not Afraid To Ask), multiple parents commented that they were terrified to send their unvaccinated children back to school in September without a remote option.
When he spoke at a press conference on Thursday, August 26, Mayor Bill De Blasio held firm:
New: We're finally getting details on NYC's school safety plans. De Blasio reiterating that there won't be a remote option.— Eliza Shapiro (@elizashapiro) August 26, 2021
"Think about a child who hasn't been inside a classroom in a year in a half, that's not supposed to happen, we cant let that happen anymore," he says.
He did make an exception for medically fragile children and released a list of conditions which would qualify a student for home instruction:
Here is the list of underlying conditions that qualify NYC kids for home instruction this year. Any family w/ immunocompromised child can also apply: pic.twitter.com/HHHHhsFNHJ— Michael Elsen-Rooney (@MichaelElsenRoo) August 26, 2021
There was also an addendum that parents of children outside the listed conditions could still apply for accommodation. And expect it to be processed in the three weeks before school is set to start on September 13? Will this be another case when those with access to the right doctors and lawyers get the exemptions they demand, while children with the exact same medical conditions but fewer resources are forced to attend school, nonetheless? Past performance suggests, hell, yes.)
Approved medically fragile students are set to be taught by teachers coming to their homes. But, the big question which we brought up last week remains: What will happen to students forced to quarantine for up to 10 days at a time? Who will be teaching them, and how?
NYC schools' approach to quarantining is far out of line with CDC, and will likely lead to large numbers of students quarantining daily https://t.co/k5pCA8Zg64— Matt Barnum (@matt_barnum) August 26, 2021
It's not clear whether an entire classroom of elementary school kids will get Zoom or other remote instruction while quarantined. The DOE handbook says only they "will continue to receive instruction." https://t.co/Wu8b2cvkki— Susan Edelman (@SusanBEdelman) August 26, 2021
Why differential quarantine lengths for unvaccinated students by age? https://t.co/Sff3KFRRJP— Alex Hazlett (@ahazlett) August 26, 2021
Teachers Union: “…The mayor has finally acknowledged the need for virtual instruction for medically fragile children and for those in quarantine. We still are working out the details of this remote instruction.”— Christina Veiga (@cveiga) August 26, 2021
A big, hairy problem to solve just a few wks before school starts. pic.twitter.com/UcOT0ld4aQ
"It feels like we’re coming down the wire, and this was a predictable problem for weeks and weeks and months and months." https://t.co/6JmX2egYiE— Alex Zimmerman (@AGZimmerman) August 27, 2021
As for in-school Covid testing:
New: NYC schools will have random COVID testing for 10% of school population twice a month. That's more than a 4-fold decrease from end of last year, when 20% were tested each week.— Michael Elsen-Rooney (@MichaelElsenRoo) August 26, 2021
This year, Mayor de Blasio's plan is to wing it and hope for the best. Just like last year. https://t.co/00Vnen8H4D— Arthur Goldstein (@TeacherArthurG) August 27, 2021
In reality, not all students attending in-person submitted consent last year. Still, DOE could at least threaten to switch those kids to remote. Without remote instruction this year, no mandate to participate in testing. https://t.co/DXhszjPBsD— Christina Veiga (@cveiga) August 26, 2021
Such ongoing uncertainty did little to assuage the fears of parents clamoring for a remote option.
The Mayor and School Chancellor have made it clear they believe it’s best for students to be back in the classroom, no matter how their parents might feel on the subject. This is in line with general education policy. You are required to go to school by law. You are, a majority of the time, required to go to the school the city assigns you. Once again, those with resources can find a way to maximize their options. Private schools, charter schools, homeschooling, learning pods, moving to the suburbs, testing into Gifted & Talented programs, and working the waitlist to get into unzoned schools and dual language programs. Those without, remain stuck.
When it comes to parents advocating for no remote option, their arguments fall into two camps.
#1) If we allow a remote option, before you know it, 60% of students will opt for it, just like last year, and then our in-person kids will be overlooked for the remote kids, and we’ll be forced to put our kids into remote too, and I cannot have my kids at home for another year, it’s bad for them.
#2) Remote learning didn’t work last year for my kid, which means it didn’t work for every kid. I am advocating for every child, not just my own, when I say that there should be no remote, only in person for all.
It is true that remote learning was a mess last year, as I outlined in my post, The Needs Of the Many Outweigh the Needs Of the Few: NYC Schools Edition. A big part of that was due to the oft-repeated assertion that it was impossible for a teacher to instruct both in person and remote students simultaneously.
This is why we have some teachers teaching remote classes and some teaching in-person classes for Elementary school. Teachers doing both at the same time are doing the impossible.— Kristina of ⭐️⭐️ (@maytagsmom) May 27, 2021
Teaching is hard, teaching both remote and in-person during a pandemic is nearly impossible. "Educators recounted whiplash experiences of having their schools abruptly open and close, sometimes more than once. Some educators said their workloads had doubled.— Jackson Potter (@jacksonpCTU) November 30, 2020
Teachers working full-time doing in-person teaching while two-thirds of the kids are at home doing remote "learning" – current scenario in most schools – is impossible.— Nathan Newman 🧭 (@nathansnewman) June 30, 2020
But that's what DOE is promoting because they are idiots. No other word for promoting plan doomed to fail.
(For those playing along at home, my math and science teacher husband did the impossible, five days a week from September through June. He’s a superhero!)
But fixing remote learning is something that’s within the purview — some might even say the obligation — of the Department of Education. Did we learn nothing last year that might improve instruction this year? No? We’re just throwing our hands in the air and giving up? We expect students to learn from their mistakes and boost their performance but not teachers and administrators? Got it. (Though such a defeatist attitude would explain why half our high school seniors graduate not-college ready. Upgrading takes effort, lamenting the status quo is easier.)
It is also true that remote learning didn’t work for many kids. Just like it’s true that it worked for some.
I’m not sure what gives one parent the right to decide what worked or didn’t work for another parent’s child and advocate in their name. Or, rather, not in their name, but in the name of their best interests — even if the second parent doesn’t know it. Especially if you believe the other parent doesn’t know it.
Even before the pandemic, there were numerous schools in NYC whose educational approaches I didn’t agree with. But I still supported other parents’ right to choose it for their own child.
You don’t have to like progressive education to agree that families had the right to opt for it. You don’t have to like structured, rigorous schools to feel the same. I can draw on my own experience as an immigrant child and believe that newly arrived students should be taught English as soon as possible, without rallying to get rid of dual language programs.
And I can plan to send my own daughter to in-person public school in September without insisting that everyone else follow suit.
Choice, choice, choice. How many times have I written about school choice? (Even if you’ve counted, don’t tell me, it would be too depressing to know.)
I believe this scenario is no different. If you think your children are better off being in school whether or not their teachers are vaccinated, whether or not their classmates are vaccinated, whether or not 3 foot social distancing is enforced —
.@DOEChancellor says schools will provide "three feet of distancing where possible"— Jillian Jorgensen (@Jill_Jorgensen) August 26, 2021
— Then send your children to school.
If you think your children are better off at home, even with worksheets and asynchronous instruction and limited socializing, then you should be allowed to keep them home.
Considering how furious a portion of public school teachers were about last week’s vaccine mandate —
A great rally yesterday 8/25 of #NYC workers organized by @teacher_choice against #VaccineMandate Thousands of ppl. Next step join lawsuit at https://t.co/Pfazp114wT#COVID19 #FauciOuchie pic.twitter.com/sZYa18AAuR— Diane Pagen ✍ #housingnotshelters #UBI (@diane_pagen) August 27, 2021
I predict 2,000 teachers will be following me out of the UFT in the next 2 weeks#TeachersForChoice— Teachers for Choice (@teacher_choice) August 26, 2021
More info to come for NYC teachers pulling their dues. Stay tuned! https://t.co/NuMpTtMQdQ— Teachers4OpenSchools (@Ts4OpenSchools) August 26, 2021
— There should be plenty available to teach from home those who wish to remain at home.
Let families choose, let teachers choose, let principals and schools choose.
"It will simply not be possible to bring back all students to all buildings while fully complying with these social distancing protocols,” the NYC principals union says of the 3-foot rule.@selimalgar @CannizzaroCSA https://t.co/P7LPztevEp— Susan Edelman (@SusanBEdelman) August 14, 2021
And then let’s keep the idea of school choice of every kind going, even after this pandemic is just a memory.