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Will NYC Parents Strike On the First Day Of School – And Beyond?

Despite last week’s City Council hearing on the September 13, 2021 return to school plans, where Education Committee Chair Mark Treyger and a cohort of parents advocated for a remote education option, Mayor Bill de Blasio and School Chancellor Meisha Porter insisted that, save for listed medical exceptions*, all students, vaccinated or not, would be required to return to school in person.

Soon after, I began hearing the idea of a parents’ strike, where public school families would keep their children home as a way to demonstrate just how many of them didn’t feel reassured by the safety protocols — and platitudes — they were being offered.

I asked my readers whether they would support such an action. Here’s what they had to say:

Yes, Strike:

CV: I will be part of the parent strike and if there is no remote option, will pull my child from public school.

KA: I can’t bear that we are sending our kids into chaos and closures, with a heightened risk of covid, when we are so close to a vaccine for children. I will definitely support a strike and was already planning to hold my son back for the first week, as the DOE isn’t requiring any baseline testing to weed out vacation covid cases.

JK: I absolutely will support the strike.  I made up my mind to hold off until the last minute and not send my kids to school. After many Zoom meetings with the Chancellor, districts, principals, I feel they all are singing the same tune – a tune that is not sitting well with me for many reasons.  All I hear is “vaccinations and multi-layered approach to safety” – but is that all that it is?  When I asked questions in forums, they were ignored. 

MRC: The lack of remote option is particularly concerning in light of the inadequate testing program — no Pre-Kers, no Kindergarteners, no vaccinated individuals, only 10% of those who opt in (which is not required to attend school) and only every other week. We know this virus — and the Delta variant in particular — spreads to and from children, asymptomatic individuals, and those who are vaccinated. The single-minded drive to get our kids in school, in person, at any cost is going to drive parents to homeschool, private school, and leave NYC altogether.

TK: I am going to notify DOE of our decision to homeschool. At this point it seems to be the only choice to keep both my kids and older members of my family safe (grandparents are immunocompromised and vaccines were not much help for them). 

SMC: I would support a parent strike. We’ve already informed our daughter’s elementary school that she won’t be attending in person until she’s fully vaccinated. We were told that her absence would likely trigger an investigation, but we’re prepared to accept that.

EK: I’d support a strike over masks on 5 year olds- the rest of the world does not mask small kids, the outcome is identical, why is this country doing this?

KP: I would definitely support a strike! Children’s lives should be more than just $$$ to schools and families should have a say in their education.

AE: I would absolutely support parents who strike. 100%. Bill de Blasio excoriated former President Trump, saying HE (de Blasio) believes in SCIENCE (emphasis de Blasio’s). And yet, here we are. We are in a global pandemic about to hit the peak of a worse variant than the original strain and yet we have increased classroom density and reduced testing. Even if only 2% of students are positive, that’s still 22,000 students taking their masks off to eat lunch with their peers with a prevalent variant that spreads in less time than it takes to read a board book, let alone a 30-minute lunch period. As if that weren’t enough, teachers and students who get their first dose in late September will not be fully vaccinated until NOVEMBER, though they will continue to be at school in the meantime. This is a cluster of the highest proportions. It is completely irresponsible. It is grossly negligent. And it is patently condescending to the parent body. I will not send my daughter back in the school building. 

Leave your own thoughts in the Comments, and come back tomorrow to hear from the other side!

  • Re: the medical exemptions, a mother writes to lament, “One thing I wanted to add about the public school reopening debacle, I mean homecoming, is that the mayor and the DOE have artificially restricted access to medical exemptions such that their guidance doesn’t actually match CDC guidance. The CDC says children and adults alike are at risk of severe complications from COVID if they are asthmatic, among other conditions. Asthma is prevalent in urban communities like ours. So you would expect to find asthma on the list of conditions for which the DOE will grant a medical exemption from in person learning while we deal with this *respiratory* virus. But you won’t find it there. If your child is asthmatic and, per the CDC, you are worried about the implications of COVID, you have to ask the DOE for a special eligibility review, and then cross your fingers. So much for science.
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