This summer, my fully vaccinated 14-year-old daughter was finally able to return to her Wendy Hilliard Gymnastics Foundation program at the Harlem Armory, a NY State facility. Halfway through the six-week training camp, a fellow team member tested positive for COVID. All those who’d had contact with them were ordered to quarantine for 10 days.
My daughter did as she was directed and the WHGF coaches pivoted to teaching on-line — as they’d been doing for most of the past year. (As I’ve written before, between her gymnastics and her brother’s ballet, our downstairs neighbors are saints.)
On Thursday, August 19 — less than a month before New York City public schools are scheduled to begin — Mayor Bill de Blasio reiterated that all learning would be five days a week in-person. There would be no remote or hybrid option, like last year, even for the estimated half a million unvaccinated students (whether by choice or because they’re too young).
However, when asked what would happen to students who, like my daughter, would be required to quarantine upon exposure (though the city insists they will follow Centers For Disease Control guidelines and not require those vaccinated to quarantine the way the Armory did), the Mayor dismissed the issue as of no consequence:
At today’s presser @NYCMayor, getting a little snippy, says once again that he does not think NYC needs a remote school option. “We found that our kids were safest in school,” he said of last yr. “This is going to be the place that kids need to be… So we have one plan.”— Christina Veiga (@cveiga) August 19, 2021
In response to question about how kids in quarantine will learn: Mayor is suggesting full plan will be announced soon. (It’s less than a month before school starts!) Here’s what we think will happen: https://t.co/wVVgjV4ary— Christina Veiga (@cveiga) August 19, 2021
What CDC says should happen: https://t.co/k1ahAh8Zho
Mayor de Blasio gave an emphatic “NO” when asked by @digitalhen whether he will consider a remote option for sick or quarantined kids. How they will continue their studies is yet to be announced. With Covid quarantines limited to 7 days, he said, the problem is “very temporary.”— Susan Edelman (@SusanBEdelman) August 19, 2021
This deeply offended City Council member and Education Chair Mark Treyger, who tweeted:
NYC’s fact sheet says people should quarantine for 10 days, not 7, if they are unvaccinated and are a close contact to confirmed cases. Try telling parents, students, & educators that 10 days are brief w/out instruction. Worksheets aren’t instruction. Kids need a remote option.— Mark Treyger 🍎 (@MarkTreyger718) August 19, 2021
Earlier, he’d insisted:
I’m pointing out that Houston adjusted their school plan and now offers a centralized remote learning plan for kids while in NYC our plan will be worksheets for 10 days whenever kids quarantine. In my view, that is the absence of a meaningful and comprehensive plan.— Mark Treyger 🍎 (@MarkTreyger718) August 18, 2021
Last week, when we asked NYC parents what they were planning (and hoping and fearing) for September 2021, we heard from those who insisted that remote learning didn’t work, as well as those who were desperate for a remote option.
A mother wrote me in response to say:
Still awaiting plans from the schools regarding how they are going to manage this school year. But what if we get the plan and it seems fundamentally unsound? (Like having dozens of children eat lunch together, for example?) What if you don’t want your child to return to school this fall under the circumstances school leadership has outlined? Then what? In the absence of a remote or even hybrid option, what choices do parents have? Home Instruction is one, but they send the person into your home, which kind of defeats the point. What other options are there, besides opting out entirely and going private? Any insight you have would be most welcome by many of us, I am sure!
Homeschooling is definitely an option – not the kind where the Department of Education sends a tutor to your home, but where you go at it on your own. Due to the multiple requests I’ve been receiving lately, here is a primer my son wrote on how to file homeschooling paperwork. There are also homeschooling co-ops and pods, for the socialization aspect.
Unfortunately, as of now, parents are stuck in a holding pattern. We don’t know what the plan for the fall will look like and, by the time we hear it, it might be too late to make alternative plans. That’s what happens in a monopoly which the law insists you participate in unless you have the means to buy your way out.
It won’t be too late for homeschooling. You can opt for homeschooling at any point in the year. But private schools may be full by the time Mayor de Blasio deigns to tell us how our children will be educated during the inevitable mandatory quarantines — not to mention, the rest of the time.
What is the plan if teachers need to quarantine, but not students? Without a vaccine mandate for staff (as of press time), that is a possible scenario, especially if the teacher is exposed in a non-school setting. Will students remain in the classrooms — while their teachers teach from home? Will there be supervision? Will there be someone to help the youngest ones set up their devices?
And speaking of devices; since there will be no remote instruction this year, there will also be no distribution of remote learning devices for those who lack them. (Not that last year’s distribution went well, but at least some were given out.) What happens to those students when they need to quarantine? (If you have devices to donate, go to this website, which matches those in need with those who have tech to give.)
What is the plan if only half of a classroom needs to quarantine, and the other half doesn’t due to differing vaccination status? Will class go on without them or will we, like last year, be told that it’s an equity issue. If one student is missing from class, no student should receive instruction until they return. At which point, why not send the whole class home?
And finally, when it comes to the social distancing necessary to make in-person learning possible, Chalkbeat reports:
The Council for School Supervisors and Administrators, or CSA, the union representing principals and other school administrators, sent an email to members noting confusion over whether schools would have to comply with social distancing as a strict rule or only in cases where it’s possible — as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends. Sparking the uncertainty were capacity reports shared from the education department that “gave the impression that all schools must maintain three feet of social distancing for all students at all times,” the email to principals notes. “The city obviously wants it both ways, to offer no remote option and for families to believe that students and staff can maintain three feet of social distancing at all schools at all times,” the email said. In a separate letter to the mayor and chancellor, the union’s head said that the “majority of schools” would be unable to maintain three feet of social distancing with their full student rosters.
Asked about inability of some schools to social distance (https://t.co/TzocF9Lp4M), mayor says distancing is “one of a number of factors.” He points to vaccination, masking, ventilation.— Christina Veiga (@cveiga) August 20, 2021
Will you send your unvaccinated child back to school if there is no remote option? Will you send your child to a school that cannot maintain three feet of social distancing? Are you alright with masks not being worn when students eat lunch? Are you comfortable with the possibility of your child having an unvaccinated teacher? Unvaccinated classmates? How do you think schools should handle learning under quarantine?
De Blasio pledges now on @BrianLehrer to layout quarantining rules for public school students starting next week.— Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech (@AODNewz) August 20, 2021
Let us know what you think about all of the above, and we’ll get your answers to the DOE.
We’ve got time. It’s not like they’ll be telling us anything definite anytime soon….