By Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech
On Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio told a city filled with frustrated parents over his decision to only allow one opt-in date for blended learning “it’s time to make a decision” during his weekly interview on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show.
The comment came across as tone-deaf to some parents who have grappled with almost weekly changes to the city’s school reopening plan including two delays to the start of in-person classes — and, who Department of Education officials assumed, wanted their children to return to classrooms if they did not fill out a survey opting for fully remote learning.
“We want everyone now to declare themselves,” de Blasio told host Lehrer on Oct. 30. “Right now, it’s time for people to make a decision.”
The comment came after Lehrer asked de Blasio to address Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza’s hint during a Parent Advisory Council meeting on Thursday that the city would offer a second opt-in date. Carranza told parents during the meeting the city would “absolutely consider” providing another opt-in period for families if it is possible and “made sense,” according to Chalkbeat.
Since the summer, city officials have told parents that they would receive multiple opt-in dates for blended learning so the sudden switch shocked many parents across the city. Now families will be given a two week period starting Nov. 2 and ending on Nov. 15 to decide.
The decision has been heavily criticized by parents with many calling the sudden switch cruel.
“They have crossed a line now,” Cathy Grodsky, president of the District 26 President’s Council, told amNewYork Metro. “They are re-traumatizing families that have finally gotten into a rhythm after months of uncertainty all in order to justify a plan that was unworkable.”
Earlier this week, de Blasio and Carranza reported that only a quarter of the city’s public school students, roughly 280,000 children, have attended an in-person class so far this fall. The number falls far short of the nearly 700,000 students the mayor predicted would take part in blended learning before schools reopened in September.
The Department of Education has long misrepresented families’ interest in blended learning. Parents and teachers have been skeptical of the DOE’s weekly blended and remote learning data which on Oct. 19 said that 46% of public school students were enrolled in blended learning.
In addition, students were automatically enrolled into blended learning if their parent or guardian did not fill out a DOE survey requesting fully remote learning.
School staff have repeatedly warned that large numbers of parents and guardians would choose fully remote learning out of concern for their children’s health and over the quality of the education that they would be receiving.
The city’s teacher union, the United Federation of Teachers, warned after middle and high schools reopened for students that schools did not have enough staff to properly teach students under the hybrid learning model. As a result, thousands of children are spending their in-person learning days in schools sitting in front of a laptop to receive remote instruction.
The mayor called Carranza’s suggestion that the city could implement another opt-in date after November a “common sense point,” adding that the city would only offer an additional opt-in date if there is a profound change to the coronavirus, such as an available vaccine.