(The author of this guest post wishes to remain anonymous.)
Caveat – my vantage point is primary school; I have a kindergartner and a third grader and I believe that the principal and teachers at my daughters’ school are genuinely and in good faith trying their best to make this school year as positive an experience as it can be.
Now, let’s start with this — remote education on a mass scale doesn’t work. It doesn’t work for IEP students, it doesn’t work for accelerated students, it doesn’t work for students with one parent that works or two parents that work. It doesn’t work for English language learners. It doesn’t work for native English speakers.
It. Does. Not. Work.
And by “does not work” I mean that it does not progress students to the best of their ability, in an environment that is most suited to help them advance their learning, develop social and emotional skills and do most of what we expect “school” to do in an ostensibly advanced nation that considers itself a global leader.
Next, I don’t place much blame with local stakeholders. Families across America have been put into a terrible position with respect to school directly as a result of the pathetic, inept and cronyism-laced federal response to the coronavirus. Whether it is failing to coordinate a federal response to keep prevalence of the virus low enough for students to safely attend, failure to adequately fund schools in the first place and threatening to withhold or reduce what funding there is if schools did not open no matter the consequences, failure to coordinate a national solution for testing so that educators and students can have access to quick, efficient testing, and generally failing to lead on (and frankly, for the most part hindering) anything that would have actually been useful in allowing the United States to have a response to the virus resembling that of other “wealthy” nations. The Trump administration has failed miserably, despite having access to resources far exceeding nations with similar virus statistics. The Trump administration’s disgraceful response to the virus is further evidence that the Trump family is willing to throw mud (and other soft brown substances) at the American public so long as they can stay in power and enrich themselves.
So that brings us to NYC, which like so many cities in America has been left with only bad options to muddle through on its own without any bona fide assistance at a national level. I cannot for the life of me understand why NYC has opened gyms, retail and in-restaurant dining and many other activities that appear to be of the highest risk for transmission while repeatedly shuffling education to last place. There presumably isn’t a parent in the DOE system who really believes we will get through the school year on a hybrid model. All I’m trying to do is get a few weeks here and there for my children to meet their teachers, see their classrooms, sit in a socially distanced manner with other children, raise their real hands and feel part of a community (NO, it is not the same as “community building” on a remote Zoom class – all good intentions aside, see above, re: It. Does. Not. Work.). And the shred of hope I had that there would be a brief window for my children to safely engage in person has been increasingly dimmed with the further delay of the start of school. My hope was that a few weeks of experience within the school building would make the all-remote education that would surely follow at some point in the school year a little less terrible. It is highly likely that in two weeks there will be another problem and not enough economic or political power among exhausted, dispirited and disconnected NYC families to actually compel the administration, the unions or the DOE to take advantage of what may be a rare moment in time when the prevalence of the virus is extremely low in NYC — actually put children ahead of gyms, put education first, and in compliance with the best and reasonable safety protocols, give children a few weeks of connection to their school community before our leadership throws up its hands again and tells us all to go back home.
This should not be a debate about the choice to do hybrid education versus all-remote school; I don’t think it is useful for parents to judge or disparage families that have made different choices about which school option to select. This is about the fact that our federal government has failed us completely, and as a society, we seem to be unwilling or unable to prioritize and make the necessary choices for in-person school to be a viable and uncontroversial option for students and families.