BROOKLYN – The mayor and the governor have given their blessings to begin the reopening of NYC Public Schools in the fall. Parents have the option of sending their kids to a physical school part-time or having them learn 100% online with distance-learning. Last week, principals of 34 public schools in District 15 sent a letter addressed to Mayor Bill de Blasio, Chancellor Richard Carranza, and Governor Andrew Cuomo outlining ‘grave concerns’ and asking for more time and answers to their questions.
Shortly after, the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators (CSA), who represent 6,400 staff members, wrote a letter urging to delay reopening school for in-person instruction. And now, District 13 principals, which represent Brooklyn Heights, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, and Bedford Stuyvesant, have signed and sent their own letter to the mayor, governor, and chancellor urging them to delay school reopening as they are not fully ready and equipped with the necessary measures to keep students, faculty, and staff safe and healthy. The letter was signed by 813 people, which includes community members, teachers, principals, and parents.
“We accept and appreciate the framework for reopening that NYSED has put forward to all NYS districts as well as NYCDOE’s general plans as set forth in their response to NYSED’s reopening framework,” the letter states. “However, in planning for reopening at the school level, we have several requests for information, time allocations, supports, policy clarifications, and personnel that we know are prerequisites to the opening of schools this fall, which we are committed to doing safely, in an organized and well-planned way.”
They urged a reopening that fulfills the following:
- Ensures students receive instructional programming that supports their intellectual development and that respects their intellectual capacity and curiosity – anti-racist/culturally relevant and sustaining as well as aligned to priority standards. Also ensuring students are not only receiving “core” content instruction but enriched curriculum and instruction to develop their passions, interests, and wellness;
- Protects the safety and health of students, families, and staff;
- Ensures students are adequately supported socially and emotionally – to develop and thrive but also to process past, current and future trauma and stress which all young people are facing and will face;
- Ensures teachers are prepared to provide said instructional programming;
- Ensures all students have access to the learning management system, the aligned instructional materials (paper if needed), and aligned instructional apps;
- Ensures all teachers are prepared to support executive functioning and digital literacy development of students;
- Ensures that programming and attendance protocols are clear and able to be operationalized;
- Ensures that all city systems and protocols are clear, have been tested and are able to be operationalized;
- Ensures all related services and other student services are able to be delivered in remote and blended settings;
- Ensures that PPE equipment is in place;
- Ensures that safety protocols are clear and able to be operationalized.
According to Amy Rodriguez, the principal of The Park Slope School, PS 282, while she is grateful for the work that the mayor and chancellor have done, there are still so many unknowns that impact the health and wellbeing of her community, she explained.
“I’m a mother and an educator; I wouldn’t have spoken out unless I was incredibly concerned,” she told Bklyner. “My school has not yet received our PPE, I’m waiting on the status of our HVAC, and we need a school nurse to be assigned. Couple that with creating a schedule where I know the learning preferences of approximately half my community and a quarter of my staff requested accommodations (which they have every right to do), it becomes a challenge to plan a vibrant blended and remote experience for every child if I don’t know who is in the building and who is remote.”
She explained that the city was right with using a phased-in approach to re-open the city. But such an approach is also necessary for schools.
“A phased-in approach is the only thoughtful and safe option for our communities. We need time for administrators to rewrite policy to reflect the latest changes with COVID-19, we need time to support our teachers and staff on how to navigate these new policies,” she said. “Our students and families deserve a clear understanding of how schools will look and feel in this new paradigm. If we follow the plans outlined in our petition thoughtfully, we are less likely to have to suddenly close schools in the case of an increase in infection rates.”
According to Rodriguez, the lives of community members are at risk if the re-opening process is not slowed down. She said she is not willing to risk even one person’s health and well being “in the rush to get back to a normal that may no longer be sustainable.”
”My staff contains some of the most loving, innovative, and dedicated people I’ve had the privilege to work with. I’m so grateful to have them on my team. As for my students, they are at the heart of everything my community does,” she said. “I miss them so much! When the time comes to re-open schools, and it will come, I want every single human who walks through our front door to feel valued, to be loved, and to trust that they are walking into a safe space.”