“In this time of great uncertainty, there is one thing we do know: many students, including our youngest and most vulnerable school populations, are in desperate need of in-person learning and support services. We know this from hours and hours of testimony from educators, experts, parents and teachers at Council oversight hearings held in September and October.
“We also know that there is credible scientific evidence that young students are less likely to transmit COVID-19, and leading health experts have expressed confidence that schools can operate safely if safety measures are resourced and followed.
“Our City is in a dangerous position right now with rising COVID rates. But we owe it to students and families – and all New Yorkers who care about the future of this city – to try everything we can to keep schools open to provide in-person services while also prioritizing safety and equity. This is especially important for families who rely on our government to be the great equalizer.
“One option that should be under serious consideration right now is the phased-in schools proposal crafted in July by Education Chair Mark Treyger. It would begin by initially offering in-person learning five days a week for early childhood and elementary students, as well as for our most vulnerable student populations: students with learning disabilities, multi-lingual learners, families experiencing homelessness, and others who are not being adequately served. Remote learning would also be offered for those families who do not want to participate in person and the Department of Education (DOE) must ensure that every child from every zip code receives the appropriate technology and internet they need.
“Prioritizing in-person learning for younger students and our most vulnerable student populations is important because we know that their academic and developmental progress is the most dependent on the social environment and consistency of in-person education. We also know they benefit the most from the resources and individualized attention that are in many cases impossible to get remotely, due to staffing constraints. In March, as our city shifted to full remote, we also opened up regional enrichment centers (REC) to provide emergency childcare services to children of essential workers. This proposal builds on the REC model by adding education services and expanding the pool of eligibility to include our city’s vulnerable kids.
“These are difficult times for our city and tough decisions must be made. Let’s follow the science, think creatively and be guided by our mutual goals of safety and equity for all New Yorkers – including the children whose continued progress and success should be our ultimate concern.”