As New York families prepare to start the school year on Sept. 13, a pair of lawmakers from the north and northwest Bronx are calling for a remote learning option to accommodate students who are medically unable or ineligible to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 pandemic.
New York City Councilman Eric Dinowitz and New York State Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz have sent a joint letter to city Department of Education (DOE) Chancellor Meisha Porter requesting that a centralized remote learning option be made available solely for students who are either too young to be vaccinated or have legitimate medical reasons to not be vaccinated, such as those who are undergoing chemotherapy or who have compromised immune systems.
The letter calls for a remote learning option, as opposed to tasking individual schools with simultaneously operating in-person and remote classrooms. It also specifies that remote learning should not be offered to families who simply choose to not vaccinate out of personal or philosophical objection.
“I absolutely believe that everyone who is medically able to be vaccinated should do so, and I am not interested in providing alternative options to those who simply are choosing not to get the vaccine,” Jeffrey Dinowitz said. “But the reality is that many children are not able to protect themselves from this deadly pandemic because they are too young or have legitimate medical issues. Our city has an obligation to provide a safe public education to these students too, and I believe the appropriate solution here is to offer a centralized remote learning option. I urge Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Porter to reconsider their current opposition to a remote learning option for our students.”
The DOE has thus far refused to offer any option for these families, despite the COVID-19 vaccine only being available for people aged 12 and older. There are multiple large public school districts across the United States that are offering some form of online learning, including Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia.
New York City is experiencing a rise in COVID-19 infection rates, now averaging more than 2,000 new cases per day, as the highly infectious Delta variant has fully taken hold.
“It is reassuring to know that the Department of Education is taking meaningful steps to facilitate the return to in-person learning,” Eric Dinowitz said. “However, students under 12 and children that are unable to receive the vaccine due to medical reasons are not being fully considered in this process. There has been enough time for the DOE to create a centralized remote learning option to accommodate these students. This becomes increasingly urgent as the rise in Delta variant cases accelerates. With all the lessons we’ve learned from the pandemic, we know that Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Porter can ensure that no child is left out by offering a centralized remote option.”