‘We must take action, make our voices heard and get results’: Bronx parents protest and march against reckless schools reopening

Community Education Council 8 President, Farah Despiegnes, leads the march
Photos by Jason Cohen

As schools have reopened across New York City, many parents expressed deep concerned about the well-being of their children.

On Friday, Oct. 2, a group of moms and dads held a protest and march calling for change in the city’s education during the pandemic. They demanded that every child have a laptop, innovative remote teaching and learning, a clean, safe and verifiable plan for in-person reopening with community input, adequate number of teachers and PPE and a transparent system of testing and tracing.

The Bronx Parent Leaders Advocacy Group organized the march with the support of the District 8 Community Education Council and the District 8 Presidents’ Council. Residents met at I.S. 131 at 885 Bolton Ave., walked down Story Avenue, toward Bruckner Boulevard and Bronx River and ended at Father Gigante Plaza.

“It is important that Bronx parents take action and continue to take action so that we begin to cultivate the culture of civic action and profound civic engagement,” said CEC 8 President Farah Despeignes. “We cannot simply complain and remain complacent. We must take action, make our voices heard and get results.”

Prior to marching, CEC 8 member Lourdes Jibodh addressed the community. She, along with many Bronx parents, felt betrayed by the city and Department of Education.

She questioned how Chancellor Richard Carranza and Mayor Bill de Blasio could send kids and teachers back to school when the ventilation systems do not work and no one knows how safe it is in regards to the spread of COVID-19.

According to Jibodh, the Department of Education has pressured principals to lie about the conditions of the buildings, the amount of staff at schools and even threatened staff with termination.

“We want to tell the teachers and principals that parents in the Bronx are in alliance with them,” Jibodh said. “We are standing shoulder to shoulder with them and everyone who opposes reckless in-person reopening and the disastrous remote learning.”

Jibodh said that the DOE and mayor should have asked parents for input before reopening. With many kids confused about their schedules, lacking basic Wi-Fi and technology and constant worry about the cleanliness of facilities, she added that there must be transparency.

“What kind of sweatshop operation is the DOE?” she shouted. “Educators did not get in the business of education to be treated like slaves.”

 

Another parent that shared her concern is Luis Ramirez. Ramirez, who has six kids, felt this plan to reopen was hasty and not safe.

Many of these kids may be asymptomatic, but have the potential to pass COVID-19 onto a teacher or elderly family member, he said.

Furthermore, the computers the students were given often crash. He also wondered why it took a pandemic for the kids to receive laptops and for schools to rigorously check ventilation systems.

“I don’t think schools are ready to be open and play Russian roulette with our children,” Ramirez said. “As a parent, I worry about my kids.”

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