Morris Park teacher says that city schools are not prepared to reopen next month

Morris Park teacher Suzanne Ribeiro.
Courtesy of Suzanne Ribeiro

With less than a month before New York City schools are set to reopen, many teachers feel that they are not ready for September.

Morris Park teacher Suzanne Ribeiro spoke with the Bronx Times about returning to school in a few weeks and how she and many of her colleagues are nervous. Ribeiro, 52, has been a special education teacher for a decade and spent the last four years at Bronx High School for the Visual Arts.

Ribeiro explained that working remotely was not a piece of cake. Kids would contact her at all times of the day and some would not submit their work until 2 or 3 a.m.

But with school set to begin Sept. 10, she is worried. Kids and teachers have the option to enroll in online or hybrid learning, where they do two or three days in school and the rest remotely.

“Our concern is returning to the health and safety of the building,” she said. “I think because we waited too long to make these decisions you lost a lot of planning time and primitive measures you could have taken.”

According to Ribeiro, there are simply too many unknown variables. She said that some of these challenges included parts of the building that might not have good ventilation, getting kids to sit in one classroom all day, providing soap in all bathrooms, finding people to take everyone’s temperature before they enter and how schools will handle positive COVID cases.

“It’s going to be interesting to see when students come back and realize it’s not their traditional school experience,” she said.

According to Ribeiro, many teachers including her have underlying conditions that would make them susceptible to COVID-19. The school conducted a survey, which revealed more than half of the staff would prefer to stay home.

She acknowledged that teaching and learning virtually were not the best experiences but students and teaches have gotten used to the new way of going to school. Now that most kids are used to it and have the necessary technology, Ribeiro said that they could continue doing it until there is either a vaccine or strict protocols put in place.

She wished the city didn’t push this hastily thrown together plan on them a few weeks before school. She shared that making all students go back to the classroom does not seem like a smart idea.

“The vast majority want to remain online because it is safer,” she explained.

Ribeiro said she understands why kids want to return to school. They miss the socialization and are tired of being shuttered inside. On top of that, parents need to return to work, are not trained as teachers and many can’t afford babysitters or to stay home.

“We all miss being in school,” Ribeiro said. “Even students that we spoke to say, “no, I’ll wait, as long as we’re doing more live instruction, I’ll wait.”

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