I spent the hours from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. yesterday, like so many New York public school parents, on Zoom calls for two of my kids’ schools, growing increasingly frustrated at being forced to make a choice with little information — but also angry and disappointed that instead of leading, the mayor and chancellor are passing the buck to parents.
Today is the deadline for parents to select 100% remote learning if they are not ready to send their kids back to school in person, under whichever blended model their school is planning on using to open come September 10, assuming infection rates stay under 3%. The question really is – opt for in-person if you believe that the Department of Education has it together to provide a safe and rigorous learning environment at your child’s school for all involved. But better be prepared for 100% remote anyway, for it could switch to that at a moment’s notice, and most likely will.
There’s something really wrong, I think, with how we are being asked to make this choice. On those Zoom calls, we were told, again and again, to act in our own interests, to pick what’s best for our own families. In the middle of a pandemic, with complete disregard for implications for public health or the interest of our particular school community?
That’s not leadership in a crisis. Why do Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza believe that we can’t be trusted to act in the common interest? If what makes sense for society at large is to prioritize the working parents of elementary-school kids, then let’s keep the high school kids home — for instance.
My kids are older – middle school and high school – and they can, even if they don’t want to, study remotely. I learned yesterday night that just one student showing up sick would put the entire middle school on remote schedule as the teachers are expected to cycle through all the in-person classes across the grades. What are the chances that one kid won’t get sick? I worry it will be on our conscience, not the DOE’s, if a teacher or principal dies because we chose to send our kids to school, even if we did so with insufficient information and not understanding wider implications – because we are being asked to make that decision.
I know, everyone’s situation is different, and we all weigh risks we face differently. But good leaders ask for compassion and understanding and sacrifice from everyone in a crisis. They earn our trust by offering thoughtful, truthful, and well-articulated guidance about what would be best for the community at large, realizing there will be tradeoffs and making those calls, and helping individuals make informed decisions within those constraints.
Right now, the City Hall is asking for those things – compassion and understanding and sacrifice – only from teachers and other school workers. We keep being told just to “choose what’s best for your family.”