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NYC Mayor Pressures Families to Opt Into Hybrid Learning: Parents Fire Back!

To date, our most popular post of 2020 has been: The (Last Minute) Plans of Mice and Men… And NYC Schools, listing all the ways in which Mayor Bill De Blasio and Chancellor Richard Carranza have been announcing, then walking back, then changing school reopening plans since the spring.

Now comes another bait and switch: Last week, despite oft-stated promises that parents who chose remote learning could opt-back into hybrid at several set times during the year, NYC decreed that was no longer the case.

Parents would have only one chance to sign their remote learning kids up for hybrid, between November 2 and 15. If they did not do it then, their child would stay remote for the rest of the year, no matter what happened with COVID-19.

While this was obviously a plan by the DOE to force more children back into schools as a way to prove themselves right — they’d insisted their reopening plans were based on the desires of three-quarter of families, yet, in reality, only about one-fourth of students opted to return to school buildings — the DOE also claimed this new plan had the support of teachers and principals. They asked for the stability it would bring. The teachers’ and principals’ unions denied the DOE’s claim.

So, this is it, parents: Your last chance to have your kids educated in person. (Though, for the record, some schools are welcoming kids to return in person… where they sit in a room and learn from a remote teacher on their screens.)

Except, you know, maybe not:

As always, I care less about what officials have to say than about what you have to say. And here’s what parents had to say about this latest policy change:

I think a constant flux of parents is an unreasonable administrative nightmare for each individual school (let’s be honest DOE is not assisting). It’s fair to allow this moment in time (while we are managing the pandemic in nyc as best we can and better than anywhere else in the country) to be the one moment to opt in or out….

Not switching! We have an amazing teacher, consistent schedule and a small group of kids in the class. We are in 1st grade remote and get live instruction in both reading and math plus specials and opening/closing circles. This is an attempt of DeBlasio to bully families so they can make their numbers look better at the expense of the safety of students and staff….

I am deeply upset about this change. I am in a high risk situation for this fall and was hoping to opt into blended in January. This abrupt change with no warning is a slap in the face to all parents. I understand the schools need to plan and manage capacity, but also the plan should be adaptable for how the virus and infection rates change. The fact that there is no flexibility in class sizes, spacing, using of outdoor playgrounds, etc. shows that this administration has no interest in figuring out what’s best for the children and their needs. Kids’ needs change with age, and this 1 size fits all from PreK through high school is ridiculous. I find it upsetting that surrounding towns in NJ, Westchester and Long Island have figured out a system by age, but NYC cannot.  If DeBlasio and Carranza had as much interest in what’s best for the children and not headlines and television appearances, maybe we could have a solution by now that allows more people in schools!….

This change is disrespectful to families that have planned their lives around multiple opt-in points. There’s no possible way we will opt into in-person to begin the week after Thanksgiving, when many families will travel and fail to properly quarantine, and at the beginning of flu season. Hard pass….

This is heartbreaking. We had planned to send them to hybrid in January (or whenever the next opt-in point after December is) so my kids could actually see their grandmother during the holidays (she lives alone). Once the kids are exposed to school, they can’t see her anymore without a quarantine period. I know other families were planning on doing the same. But my poor kids have no socialization, we don’t even have a pod. I am so angry right now….

With COVID rates increasing across the country, and even NYC seeing spikes that have to be contained, you would have to be insane to think packing more children into schools is a good idea–especially without proper funding, ventilation, and safety measures (which the federal government has failed to provide)….

We are currently remote for the pre-K, and I am planning to switch to hybrid. If this is the only time I can do, I will go ahead with it. Originally I was planning to do it in January or April. Even under the hybrid, I am not sure I would send my kid to school in December but he would probably go for at least 1 day a week to get the attendance. I am, of course, outraged with this change in policy. It’s absolutely ridiculous. They will get shadow hybrid attendance – people will sign up  to switch but will keep their kids at home for now at least….

We are in fully remote 1st grade and we will NOT be switching to hybrid. We are not happy about the bait and switch AT ALL. We made living arrangements/plans based on the assumption we could return to school in January or February. While the city is not keeping their word, we are in fact keeping ours with landlords so we will unfortunately not be able to return now even if we wanted to….

We transferred schools this year for a 3rd grade G&T program and are doing hybrid. When I saw the announcement that parents who don’t select hybrid now won’t be able to later, I did feel a sense of dread that we won’t ever be back to a 5 day a week in-person situation! Perhaps naive, but that was my first thought as an already hybrid family. I feel somewhat compelled to tell my boss that I can’t go back to full-time work again until next summer!….

This announcement is depressing since I was hoping we could join in the spring time when there may be a vaccine on the horizon and open windows more tolerable. I was not planning to return back in the winter time when the numbers would surely rise. I think having three opt in times points is too many and too optimistic. Going into class 1/ week is not worth it for us to move back. Two of my three kids are in middle school and have once per week….

We currently have our 2 children remote, and have found a teacher to help them through the day. Frankly speaking it is nearly impossible to plan anything with this virus. Trying to make us make a decision today for the next 6 months is very short-sighted and frustrating. There are multiple factors playing into our decision, including work, teacher availability, impact (+ or -) from remote only (i.e., my son is doing well, my daughter intermittently goes on “strike”), the election, moving back to the city, vaccine availability, what will happen in the winter months, among many others. Overall forcing this decision now puts undue stress and pressure on parents and families and that’s the last thing we need! I actually work at a major pharma company and help my boss run our Global COVID task force, and 1) our goal is to be flexible to allow our colleagues to do what’s best for them and their family right now; and 2) if we set forth a policy we would never change it unexpectedly and mid-way, b/c we know people are making plans and need some reassurance and guideposts to plan around (during a time of so much uncertainty)….

The last DOE move has not persuaded me to go for hybrid because the virus has not receded and that is my number 1 reason for going full remote. I believe they will change their minds a few more times and I also believe that if there is a vaccine and if I can prove that my children have taken it, the DOE will not be able to refuse my children from attending in person. I don’t believe it’s legal to force a family to not attend school in person if there is no longer any danger. But that battle is for another day. I have twins, one at Wagner, one at ESMS. ESMS seems to be doing well and going for the full curriculum. Wagner is a disaster and is really teaching general ED instead of the SP class my child qualified for. They are handing in work 2 weeks late with no consequences. Most of the time my child seems to be having a private lesson because everyone else has their camera off. I don’t blame the teachers but rather the administration. I find them to be at best less than average. I sent an e-mail to the assistant Principal 6 days ago and am still waiting for an e-mail back. My child was on the waitlist for ESMS at the top, as you said the waitlist went down not up. I finally called ESMS directly to see if there was any way to get my child in and they said and I quote “your child is worth a certain amount of money to Wagner and we have decided to not take any child away from a zoned school in order to not take this money away from that particular school.  However if you feel like you want your twins together you can always take the child you have with us and transfer them to Wagner.” I asked wouldn’t that take away money from ESMS? They seemed unable to answer. It felt very transactional and it didn’t address the fact that there are less than 25 kids per class (so plenty of room for additional children) and that my child had the grades to get into ESMS. We were number 5 on the waitlist. My eldest child is in Math-honors/Science-honors class in 8th grade at Wagner and that class is trucking along with its advanced curriculum as usual. So three kids and three different experiences….

My second grader and kindergartener are currently in hybrid 2-3 days per week, and both classes are a few children under-enrolled. The classes could hold a couple more students per DOE policy, but any more than that would reduce our days and be terribly disruptive to many juggling work and school schedules that are finally now getting under control.  If we go down to 1-2 days, instead of 2-3, it will make sense for us to move to my mother’s upstate so we have childcare to work. My family is barely holding it together, and that would push us over the line. Of course, I understand the needs of those who now want their kids to be in school. I’m not sure what has changed since August for these people, except they see the proof now that it is safe.  Again, I am not against people signing up. Our school actually has a bit of room. And in-person school has been AMAZING for my children’s well-being. I am sad for the kids who are not experiencing it. But if too many people do sign up, it is going to be terribly disruptive to many hundreds of families whose schedules will have to change, and possibly even seek major life rearrangements to be able to keep juggling everything. Here’s a different interesting thing to investigate. The entire parent body had a recent Zoom town hall with our school’s principal.  The in-person cohorts are under-enrolled, as I mentioned. One parent posed the question about whether we could get more in-person days — essentially filling those empty seats. The principal said, “that is an excellent question. I actually asked the same question. I was told we are not permitted to do that.” I am not sure if it is an equity issue or what.  Why is it that rooms have seats and children can’t be in them?  Mixing of the cohorts?…

Don’t worry – the Chancellor may change his mind about that, as well!

Stay tuned for details of even more changes as they develop – and make sure to tell us what you think!

What do you think?

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