This has not been a good week for the Richard Carranza, the NYC School Chancellor.
The light at the end of the tunnel might be an oncoming locomotive.
New York City has a $9 billion deficit this fiscal year and serious deficits over the next few years; layoffs, unemployment, a loss of services, homelessness, a bleak future facing the city unless the city “re-opens,” and let’s add “reopens safely.”
A report from the NYC Independent Budget Office (IBO) concludes,
New York City is facing nearly unprecedented challenges as it struggles to maintain budget balance, protect vital services, and provide a safe and healthy environment for individuals who want to live, work, or visit here.
While the contagion rate (# of positive tests) remains very low in New York it is surging across the country. The states that reopened too soon are seeing staggering surges in COVID contagion.
Reopening businesses, and let’s add “safely” will increase tax revenues and ease the impact of the ballooning deficit, Reopening too quickly, without proper safeguards, as we have seen in the states above drives states into reversing reopening or risk the pandemic becoming an epidemic.
Reopening schools allows workers to return to work without the seeking out childcare and clearly is preferable to remote learning.
The unanswerable question: will the reopening of schools lead to another wave of virus contagion?
New York State, after bickering between the governor, the New York City mayor and the Board of Regents released an 145-page Reopening plan and the New York State Department of Health issued a plan, both extremely detailed.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention also issued revised guidance, “Preparing K-12 School Administrator for a Safe Return to Schools in Fall 2020″ that waffled, was the guidance requirements or suggestions?
Every school district must file a school opening plan by July 31,
Pursuant to the Department of Health’s Interim Guidance for In-Person Instruction at Pre-K to Grade 12 Schools during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, schools must develop individual plan(s) for reopening and operating during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Each plan must meet the minimum standards set forth in the guidance and reflect engagement with school stakeholders and community members, including but not limited to administrators, faculty, staff, students, parents/legal guardians of students, local health departments, local health care providers, and, where appropriate, affiliated organizations (e.g., union, alumni, and/or community-based groups). Specifically, each school must prepare and submit to the State, a plan that, at minimum, covers: (1) reopening of school facilities for in-person instruction, (2) monitoring of health conditions, (3) containment of potential transmission of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19), and (4) closure of school facilities and in-person instruction, if necessitated by widespread virus transmission.
Plans should be presumed to be approved upon submission, unless otherwise notified by the State that modifications are necessary to ensure compliance with this guidance. Schools must conspicuously post completed reopening plans at the school and on their website for faculty, staff, students, and parents and legal guardians of students to access. For additional information, please consult the interim guidance.
The entire process works under the assumption that schools are reopening, and, contains troubling language, containment of potential transmission of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19), and closure of school facilities and in-person instruction, if necessitated by widespread virus transmission.
Aside from social distancing, mask wearing and entry temperature-taking, how can schools address “containment of potential transmission”? And, most troubling, schools can only be closed if “widespread virus transmission” occurs. Is the implication that a few cases of positive COVID transmission are acceptable?
The plans must include the stakeholders, including the teacher, supervisor and other school personnel unions.
On a Town Hall meeting with teachers union (UFT) Michael Mulgrew was pessimistic about school opening; he said the odds are 60-40 against opening due to unaddressed safety concerns. Listen to Mulgrew here
The leader of the principals union (CSA), in a letter to his membership was scathing: lack personnel in the schools, ignoring principal input, unaddressed safety concerns, faulty and inadequate instructional models, the principal’s union is usually far gentler in criticizing their “boss.” Read sections of the principal union president letter here
An excellent chronology of the school opening saga, “What We Know So Far,” in the Gothamist website is helpful. Read here.
The Republicans in the Senate appear to have settled their internal differences and Senate leader McConnell hints that a Senate version of the House HEROES bill may be introduced in a few days; it looks like both the Democratic House bill and the Republican Senate bill contains substantial aid to schools and local and state governments. See Chamber of Commerce pro-school aid letter here
If so, an infusion of dollars can help cities to provide what is necessary to ease some fears over a school reopening.
Suggestions that schools begin in an all-remote mode and slowly move to a hybrid model makes sense; however, sense is frequently overridden by politics.
On one side of the scale, continuing an economic recovery, on the other side the safety of students and staffs, and, policymakers trying to immunize themselves from public scorn and elective retribution.
The “wrong” decision will result in school staff members and children dying.
Can you weigh reducing unemployment with being complicit in COVID deaths?
Listen Leonard Cohen: You Want It Darker”