Can Geppetto and Pinocchio Open New York City Schools Safely? or, Are There More Sensible Options?

After weeks and weeks of speculation Governor Cuomo made his anticipated announcement,

Schools across New York can reopen for in-person instruction this fall, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Friday. … Just a few months after New York became a global epicenter of the pandemic, the governor opened the door for millions of students across the state to return to classrooms, even as most public school students in the country will start the school year remotely.

But Mr. Cuomo’s announcement does not guarantee that school buildings in the state’s roughly 700 local districts will actually reopen in the coming weeks. It is now up to local politicians and superintendents to decide whether to reopen, and how to do so. Their in-person reopening plans must also be approved by the state’s education and health departments in the coming weeks.

In other words the governor is punting to the next level, leaving the district by district and school by school decisions to local school boards and local government.

Will de Blasio go along with governor and re-open schools?  Will he be able to satisfy the unions, actually the union memberships, the teachers and principals?

On September 10th 1.1 million students will begin to trek to school, walking to neighborhood schools, taking buses and trains, joined by 100,000 plus school staffs, and, although the COVID positive testing rate is 1%, what does the math say?  One percent of New York City (8.7 million) population is 87,000.   Will any of the 87,000 pass on the infection to school staff or students?

Who are the New Yorkers who are being tested?  How many of the New Yorkers being tested are parents of school kids? How many live in the highest COVID zip codes? Will testing sites be placed in the highest COVID zip codes?

A few days or weeks after school opens teacher(s) or kid(s) or parent(s) will test positive, the science is the science. the math is the math. Maybe protocols will be in place to deal with positive tests; a month before school opening the protocols are still being debated.

The city agreed: all school personnel can be tested: Will test results be available in a few days, a week, longer?  Will testing be available to families? Dozens of unanswered questions, many of which are unanswerable, and, the core question: can you trust the mayor and the chancellor?  Are they promising the world to get schools to re-open? Are the mayor and the chancellor Geppetto and Pinocchio?

If I was a cynic I’d say when the powerful say trust me the powerless tend to get pregnant.

As a “hot spot” erupts, no matter the size: who gets the blame? The governor has walked away, no longer my problem.

After months as the “big dog” in the room, the governor has “passed the baton,” to the Board of Regents/State Education Department, to school boards, and, to the New York City mayor.

As the “baton” is dropped, the jackals will gather. The 2021 mayoral candidates will bare their fangs: this is what I would have done; the dozens and dozens of 2021 City Council candidates will issue pressers slamming the mayor. The cries of “elect me, elect me. if they had listened to me.”

The governor can step away, “I was just following the science.”

No one is seriously discussing whether hybrid, blended or non-synchronous, or whatever you want to call it education will have better outcomes than continuing the current remote model until whenever parents and teachers feel comfortable.

Pity the principals:  planning a hybrid re-opening blindfolded is frustrating and dangerous.

Budgets were cut, you will have fewer teachers, teachers received medical accommodations and will be fully remote, many students will have two teachers, the in-person and the remote, the “safety” concerns: mask-wearing, social-distancing, hand-washing will dominate the school day, and the innumerable unanticipated daily issues … under the best of circumstances running a school will be a three-ring circus on a carousel in a dark room.

In the urban school districts patience makes the most sense. Restart schools remotely and let science be the guide, if COVID continues to swirl, keep schools remote, if COVID ebbs put the toe in the water, begin a hybrid model and continue to inch towards a full opening.

Check out a “Dear Families” letter from the chancellor on August 6th, does it reassure you?

From the American Federation of Teachers,

“A series of labor/management webinars, “The Road to Reopening Schools,” will offer promising nuts-and-bolts strategies for a return to school buildings based on the best available scientific evidence. The free webinars will begin next Wednesday, Aug. 12, with a session on cleaning and disinfecting schools, including protocols and the roles of staff and students. Upcoming weekly webinars will cover physical distancing; ventilation and building systems; and hand hygiene and protective gear”.

Michael Mulgrew, the NYC Teacher Union prez doesn’t believe that NYC has satisfied health and safety standards, Read here

2020-2021 NYC School Opening Plan (August 7, 2020)  here

The countdown clock is ticking.

3 responses to “Can Geppetto and Pinocchio Open New York City Schools Safely? or, Are There More Sensible Options?

  1. Cuomo comes off as decisive and gets to blame others (DeBlasio) if schools open and virus cases spike. There may be parts of the state where schools can safely and sensibly reopen, but not NYC If schools open and classes have to close for two weeks at a time what happens to the continuity of instruction. If a whole school has to shut down, then what. The whole edifice is counting on teachers either being willing to risk their health to school or on the ability of the DOE to coerce them to do so. There are hybrid models that could be considered for younger students (3rd grade and below) and for special needs students. The city should focus in person instruction on those groups, use volunteer teachers in their classrooms, and use the available space in high schools and middle schools due to the older students studying remotely to keep classes small and allow for social distancing.

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  2. “Open schools safely” is a contradiction in terms for school openings during a worldwide pandemic with a virus about which scientists still reliably know next to nothing, and for which there is iffy treatment at best: teachers, school staff, and students used as guinea pigs.

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  3. Today’s (8/9/20) NY times includes an article with a detailed discussion of the metrics that justify schools reopening or in-person instruction, What gets lost in the article is the caveat that appears in the second paragraph. “…conditions were favorable throughout the state, including New York City, to bring children back — as long as safety precautions are in place.” There is no discussion of what those safety precautions need to be and how NYC will meet them.
    Will students and staff be safe if there is, as now. no rapid testing available to be able to exclude those with the virus? we now know that asymptomatic carriers can spread the disease as efficiently as those who are displaying symptoms.
    Will students and staff have access to masks, hands sanitizer and the soap and hot water essential for proper hygiene in all buildings? Who will pay for these supplies? How will schools ensure that students (and staff) are wearing masks and maintaining social distancing?
    What will older schools and those in closed buildings do to maintain proper ventilation? We have all heard reports of buildings where windows don’t open and know of other, newer buildings that were built to be closed, air-conditioned environments.
    These are just some of the safety precautions” that the science tells us we need to take to keep everyone healthy, even when the cases are, as now, low. What is NYC doing to meet these needs? The silence from City Hall and Tweed is deafening and very telling.

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