In the wake of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement of the reopening of schools in September, Councilman Fernando Cabrera is urging the city to consider alternative classroom sites.
With many parents slowly returning to work, the councilman wondered what these families will do if their kids are in school a few days and home for the rest of the time. He said that the Bronx does not have wealthy residents like those in the Upper West Side or Park Slope and that people don’t have the luxury of nannies or being able to take off from work.
By having children home again participating in remote learning, he said that it would just be added stress for the families.
“Who is going to take care of the children when they’re not in school?” Cabrera asked. “I hope the city is not setting the students up to fail.”
He stressed that if the city does go forward with blended learning, there must be a contingency plan for the students. Cabrera proposed that the city utilizes other appropriate spaces, such as community centers and houses of worship, which are places that already have spaces for children and where social distancing can be achieved.
“The health and safety of our children, teachers, cafeteria workers, school aides, maintenance workers must be our top priority in school reopening,” Cabrera said. “The plan to reopen schools would have classrooms available only part time, which would mean an extension of distance learning, which we know has not worked in low income communities of color.”
Cabrera added that having students home even part of the school year would not be efficient. Many children in low-income neighborhoods experienced delays in receiving laptops and tablets for distance learning. Among those who received them, lessons remained inaccessible because their families could not afford Wi-Fi and their homes were too far from the LinkNYC Wi-Fi kiosks to gain access.
“What the city has done is perpetuate and even worsen the academic experience of kids who are already struggling because their families lack the resources that were assumed to be in place, such as internet access,” Cabrera said. “Kids who were behind in school not only were unable to catch up with distance learning, but have fallen further behind. This is an inequitable arrangement and is totally unacceptable. Let’s not make the same mistake again assuming ‘one size fits all.’ Let’s get it right this time and use alternative spaces for classrooms so all kids can get back to school in safe environments.”
However, according to Cabrera, this would only matter if schools resume at all. Governor Andrew Cuomo said no decision will be made until the first week of August.
He said that he wished the mayor and governor could get on the same page. If Cuomo says one thing and De Blasio the opposite, how does that help the public?
“I understand why the governor is waiting,” he explained. “He wants to make sure the data supports the strategy they’re going to take.”