What is the City doing to improve and serve and teach the vast majority of students who will be at home trying to get instruction? That was the question that both Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Richard Carranza dodged and did not answer today at the press conference. There has been very little accountability and data available on how remote learning is going and whether vulnerable groups of students are getting left even further behind.
Mayor: “We’ve always said from the beginning that nothing is as good as in-person education. The thing that I think will be very helpful with the new plan is that we will be able to move a lot of schools for the kids who did choose, for the families that did choose in-person, we’ll be able to move to five days a week, or at least more days a week in a lot of schools.”
Chancellor: “We are continuously building capacity by building out curriculum, building out the platforms that students and teachers used for instruction as well, as well as the resources.”
No information has been provided on how much the city has spent to provide remote instruction and how it compares to reopening the physical schools.
When prodded on the disconnect between the optimistic descriptions of what the city is doing on the one hand and what the teachers and parents are seeing and experiencing on the other, Mayor said:
“I don’t think it’s two different perspectives. I think it’s looking at all the educators out there who are constantly trying to make it better despite its imperfections. [..] I’m sure there are still some people who need help, but all they have to do is call 3-1-1, and then as quickly as possible, we’re going to get them the help. So I truly believe there’s an amazing effort going on to try and make it better every day, and that’s what we have to do in the middle of this crisis.”
A data question about how many schools will actually be switching back to the five-day-a-week learning also remained unanswered, even though about 190,000 kids are expected to attend.
Mayor: “K-5, pre-K, 3-K centers, District 75 special ed., most will be able to get to five-day over time, some as early as Monday, December 7th, some will take more time. There will be schools that can’t get the five-day but certainly can improve the number of days that kids will be able to come. Why? Because we now have a specific number in the categories I talked about, it’s about 190,000 kids.”
“When the health situation improves and particularly when we start to see some vaccine distribution on a broader scale, and we think we’re in a much better environment, then we’ll do an opt-in because we’ll be in a position to do an entirely different approach to our schools. But for now, this will be the universe of folks whose kids will be in in-person learning.”
Chancellor Carranza: “We hope to have much more detailed information later this week.”
Could high school and middle school students really be looking at not going back to in-person until this year is over?
Mayor: “Yeah, at this moment. That’s, that’s what I see that the focus will be over the next few weeks, up until the Christmas break, getting elementary, District 75 Special Education, and Pre-K, 3-K up and running, making that go smoothly with a whole lot more testing, and then you know, we’re going to come back after the holidays. We’re going to be able to assess the situation, then. We’re going to keep building up our testing resources. I want us to move to middle school and high school as soon as we can, but we have to do one step at a time. “
Does the Mayor think his (mis)handling the school’s reopening has put mayoral control at risk for the next administration?
Mayor: “No, not at all.”