So far, the only person happy with Bill de Blasio’s plan to reopen New York City’s schools is Bill de Blasio.
The plan is a hodgepodge of enhanced cleaning protocols, bureaucratic testing and health screening initiatives, and physical distancing requirements that are sure to make life hell for students and teachers alike. In addition, it mandates that all staff get vaccinated by September 27, as well as all students who want to participate in athletics. Throw the state’s mandatory mask mandate into the mix, and the picture is complete: School is already one big social experiment — again.
And this time, there’s no staying home. De Blasio, as part of his reopening announcement, refused to offer families a remote option, and asked parents to “think about a child who hasn’t been inside a classroom in a year and a half” and acknowledge that “that’s not supposed to happen.” He’s right, but is missing the bigger picture — his plan NEEDS a viable virtual option to have success. More on that later.
De Blasio’s plan is the worst of both worlds. Those hungry for more COVID restrictions will leave the table unsatisfied, while supporters of a freer educational environment may cut contact altogether.
Governor Kathy Hochul should force de Blasio to provide clearer guidance and more flexibility to NYC’s families because de Blasio’s plan to reopen elementary schools is leaving the city’s families on the precipice of misery.
We already know the 2020-2021 school year was an unmitigated disaster. Families were subjected to repeated school openings and closings, and as many as 25% of students with special needs were denied their federally mandated services.
With this in mind, it’s fortunate that NYC schools are open at all. At least somebody will receive the education they deserve. The plan for middle and high school students is inadequate, but it at least makes some sense based on the available scientific information. But for elementary schools, it’s a whole different story.
The document frequently cites the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidance for reopening schools as a basis for its policy implementation. Yet, this reverence towards CDC guidance only seems to apply when de Blasio finds it convenient.
For instance, the CDC “recommends schools maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms to reduce transmission risk. When it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least 3 feet, such as when schools cannot fully reopen while maintaining these distances, it is especially important to layer multiple other prevention strategies, such as screening testing,” a recommendation NYC is following to the letter.
On the other hand, per the announcement, if a single student in a class tests positive, the whole class will be sent home to quarantine — despite CDC guidance that there is no need for young children to quarantine if there is a case in their classroom (provided that basic precautions were taken).
The city was initially mum on how young children sent home to quarantine would learn, but later clarified that they would receive synchronous (live) instruction from their teacher at home.
So, in other words, de Blasio is simply repeating his past mistakes. Those who can afford the necessary technology will be forced to endure the same, haphazard remote learning that they’ve experienced for the past year and a half. And because of the Education Department’s poor oversight of more than 16,000 iPads needed for remote learning, those who can’t afford it may not learn at all.
Virtual learning can be of enormous benefit to students when done right and is made accessible. But the city’s failures on both of those fronts make another disaster inevitable.
This kind of instability isn’t good for children, and their learning will suffer as a result. Whatever the long-term consequences of that suffering are, the blood will be on de Blasio’s hands.
New York’s public schoolers may not be set up for educational success this year, but look at the bright side: At least they’ll be learning firsthand why they shouldn’t expect the government to act responsibly.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.