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We Know What’s Best For Your Child: NYC Answers (Some) Parent Questions About Back To School 2021

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:

He did make an exception for medically fragile children and released a list of conditions which would qualify a student for home instruction:

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?

As for in-school Covid testing:

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. 

(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 —

— 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 —

—  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.

And then let’s keep the idea of school choice of every kind going, even after this pandemic is just a memory.

What do you think?

One thought on “We Know What’s Best For Your Child: NYC Answers (Some) Parent Questions About Back To School 2021

  1. I have had a conference online with the new chancellor through my daughters school Google meet & the only thing she talk about was about the COVID-19 & the summer budget & yearly budget for this upcoming school year,it’s understandable the virus situation but when I have asked about other safety issues my questions tours the new chancellor & the other group of called doe administrators never answered my questions,besides COVID-19 it’s plenty’s of issues that according to my memory weren’t never brought out to the parents attending this so called meeting,Covid-19 created this almost two years ago,how about some issues that have been there for years & no one paying attention or addressing it how it supposed to be,we have exposed our kids during this pandemic while a lot of administrators worked remotely from their home,hopefully mrs.porter the new chancellor digs in to other major issues with our future(our kids)

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