Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Parent leader Tory Frye on the Mayor's reversal that parents will be allowed to opt-into online learning for their children once -- and will have to decide by Nov. 15

UPDATE 10/29/20: CEC 6 passed a resolution last night, urging the Mayor and the Chancellor to allow parents the option of choosing in-person education for their children in January after the holidays and once in the spring, as previously promised.  The resolution is here and embedded below.

Yesterday, the Mayor announced that contrary to earlier statements, parents would only be allowed to opt into in-person learning for their kids a single time during the entire school year, and the choice will have to be made starting next week from Nov. 2-Nov. 15.  You can register your choice here.

The outrage among parents was immediate. A petition protesting this sudden announcement to reverse the earlier promise made to parents that there would be several times over the course of the school that parents could choose in-person learning is here.

On the one hand, one can sympathize with principals who have been saddled with the exceedingly difficult job of reprogramming classes and staffing dependent on how many kids attend schools in-person, further complicated by the DOE plan to provide three kinds of classes for students at each grade level and subject:  in-person classes kept small for social distancing, online classes for these students when they are home, and remote classes for full-time online students. 

Yet given the fact that infection rates are rising citywide, the holidays are looming with potential visits with vulnerable grandparents, and the hope and expectation that transmission rates may fall again in the spring, this seems like a particular unfair time to force parents to make any sort of year-long decision. 

Michael Mulgrew of the UFT wrote this: "City Hall's decision violates the plan New York City filed with the state, and it breaks faith with parents. Families were told they would have an opportunity each quarter to decide whether their child returned to the classroom or remained fully remote. Such a decision undermines parents' trust in the system."

Tory Frye of CEC6 and a public health expert wrote this to our NYC Education list

As a CEC6 member I’m hearing from numerous families who seriously resent and are upset and frightened by this sudden and forced “choice.“ Families and communities weren’t consulted; it’s being dropped on us without any consideration of our needs for flexibility and information. And there’s a lot to consider: timing of the flu season, family contact over the holidays, oh and the election! (We’ve got to make this decision during what may be post-election trauma, elation, and/or chaos? Thanks!)

There’s no evidence I’ve seen that the epidemiological experts/infection spread modelers think that a sudden and potentially massive influx of students in early December (just after Thanksgiving with the relatives!) is a good idea. (Please post if it exists!) In fact, the absence of public health experts leading these presentations and efforts throughout but particularly during these latest decisions is troubling. (Again please correct me if I’m wrong and missed it when they weighed in; I can’t watch every presser.)

And how will the in-school programming and buildings absorb a sudden increase if it materializes?  Are there enough teachers and staff? What about space for physical distancing? 

And what if a vaccine materializes in March? As unlikely as that is, would we get another chance then? What about a relief package from Congress? A lot of what ifs...

The other outrage of this decision is yet another promise made and broken. Do all remote-only families have technology and WiFi? Does every school have a nurse? Doubt it. And now four chances to opt in have dropped to one, just after a major American family holiday and before major world religious holidays. 

I truly hope they’ll walk this poorly conceived and communicated decision back. 

-Tory (CEC6)

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