As September looms closer, school leaders and politicians from the Bronx continued their conversation about how going back to school would look for the borough.
On Aug. 13, Senator Luis Sepulveda and Assemblywoman Karines Reyes chatted with Bronx Executive Superintendent Meisha Ross Porter about the city’s plans for the 2020 school year. They discussed cleaning, testing and quarantining among other issues.
“This is a partnership,” Ross Porter said. “This is not about how one person is approaching this. I am also a parent who has a child in the public school so I understand the worries.”
She stressed that as a city there must be a plan but people also must be mindful that the students and staff health and safety comes first. According to Ross Porter, the DOE’s number one concern is the nurses and cleaning the buildings.
In fact, on Thursday the city announced 400 new nurses will be hired for New York City schools.
“The DOE is working hard to make sure there’s a nurse in every school,” she explained.
All of the superintendents will be meeting so by the time school begins on Sept. 10, everyone will be on the same page.
While the city handed out more than 300,000 devices and schools distributed some as well, it is imperative to make sure every child has a laptop and Wi-Fi, Ross Porter said.
“The places we need to partner collectively as a borough is around Wi-Fi access,” she explained. “This moment for us is how we leverage technology. Whatever the students need to learn they’re going to have.”
She said that schools held town halls where parents were given input on hybrid and remote learning. If they choose to be in school, desks will be six feet apart, everyone will have their temperature taken before they come in, the kids will be in one classroom all day and if there is a positive test in one class, that class will be quarantined. But if there are positives in multiples classes, the school will likely close.
Furthermore, as many schools are old and outdated, they will need to make sure the HVAC systems are working properly and every building will be deep cleaned a few times a week. Also, some rooms cannot be used as classrooms, as they are not large enough for social distancing.
“We understand we are operating in a certain time,” she said.
Ross Porter stressed that normally students are encouraged to attend school but during the pandemic if anyone feels sick, they should stay home.
Regarding teachers, all staff will be given PPE and hand sanitizer and if they want, partitions and face masks.
“Our teachers are coming back because we really care about our students,” she said. “It’s a heavy lift, but it’s our responsibility. It’s our job to get everyone prepared and ready for the opening.”