The Municipal Council called to account officials of the De Blasio Administration, who did not offer complete information and received harsh criticism for failures such as lack of teachers, coronavirus tests and delivery of tablets
It has been almost a month since New York City began the staggered return to school 1.1 million students in the five counties, and this Thursday educational and health authorities were called to the blackboard to render accounts about the homework that the schools have been doing.
The Health and Education committees of the Municipal Council, conducted an inspection hearing to demand from officials of the De Blasio Administration answers for the way they have handled safety, health and education issues, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
And after almost 5 hours of hard questioning and requirements, in which the City representatives failed to provide complete information requested by the municipal body, and confirmed deficiencies on issues, such as the delivery of tablets to all students and face-to-face classes in schools without face-to-face teachers, the City received “poor grades”. Failed in the eyes of the Council.
So he made it clear Councilman Mark Treyger, president of Education Committee of the Municipal Council, who directly held responsible for the “failure” of the reopening of schools, Mayor Bill de Blasio, for launching into opening the campuses, without having the basic tools and resources necessary for all students.
“Mayor He goes on television and says that in New York all the children who need technological devices (to take their classes) will have them, but that is not the case. There are children without gadgets, we’ve heard for months what they need, and this is a significant sign of the disparity that exists, “said Treyger, stressing that Immigrant students and vulnerable children are the most affected.
“Many children don’t even know what kind of education they are getting if they don’t have gadgets. It is unacceptable and the mayor has been in denial about this problem; This is not new, it is the mayor’s plan. It has failed thousands of children, particularly in low-income communities, ”said the councilor.
“I hold the mayor responsible, because instead of saying that everything is fine, he should be more vocal (about the failures). Trust is broken in the school system. There are children who signed up to be in person and have no teachers but a zoomed class (…) I know there are challenges, but being honest is not a challenge for the mayor“.
The Ombudsman, Jumaane Williams, He also threw himself at the ready against the Municipal Administration, and assured that although he is not unaware that the management of schools in times of pandemic is a challenge for the City, and praised the teachers for their commitment in that attempt, he criticized the Mayor .
“We couldn’t have done worse. I blame Bill de Blasio for his incompetence on these decisions, that no one except the mayor thought that opening schools was a good idea, “Williams said. “The schools did not have enough staff to attend face-to-face classes. It is inconceivable, the Administration knew this was going to happen, there is no excuse for what it did (…) if it was better to continue with remote classes, why continue with the opening? ”.
And showing even more his annoyance and indignation, the Defender, in a heated tone, mentioned that those who have been left to their fate in schools are black and Hispanic children, who represent more than 50% of the school population of the Big Apple.
“They have fared worse 8 times compared to the rest. It is inconceivable that money and energy have been wasted. Irresponsible decisions were made and they have to assume their responsibility ”, added the official.
The Chancellor of the Department of Education (DOE), Richard Carranza, tried to defend the procedure that the City has had in the repair of the almost 1,800 schools in the Big Apple, and said that although there are still cases of children without equipment and “a few” students going to school to take virtual classes without teachers on campus, things are generally on the right track. He also warned that it must be understood that “we are in a pandemic”, which creates more difficulties.
“This pandemic has impacted our system in countless ways and opening schools is one of the greatest challenges in modern history, but our students want and need to go to classes in person and we are making sure everything is done safely, ”said the official, explaining they are being very strict with protection protocols.
Carranza stressed that the City is not improvising, and the proof of this is that of the more than 64,000 classrooms in schools, 99% they are working positively, as are hygiene supplements, the presence of nurses, masks and 30,000 air purifiers.
The DOE chief was unable to answer several questions about the exact number of children without tablets in the school system or the number of face-to-face classes without in-person teachers, as well as the consolidated responses from parents to the consent they must sign to authorize their children to be tested for COVID-19 at any moment, if they attend schools.
Carranza highlighted that in the so-called yellow areas of contagion, which concern many parents of families, so far only 72,000 consent forms, which represents only 20% of the students; In other words, 80% still do not respond, a point that generated alarm among councilors. Treyger criticized the DOE for sending misleading information, since the City has said that if a child does not take tests they will not be able to take face-to-face classes, but the consent form that has been sent to parents appears to have the option to refuse and continue to send their children to campuses.
“We have an obligation to examine security and demand that responsibilities be assumed on behalf of students, parents and school personnel and we should only have opened if we could safeguard children, teachers and staff, so we must not only examine what happens in red and yellow areas but throughout the city, “he said Councilman Mark Levine, Chairman of the Council’s Health Committee, warning that for months there has been much confusion and it is time to speak clearly and truthfully.
On the subject of testing, Levine and Treyger asked for exact information, which was not supplied completely, but the spokesman for the Department of Health, contrary to what Mayor Bill de Blasio has been urging, for weeks, jumped into the ring assuring that the COVID-19 tests among students and teachers, is not the most important thing to ensure a safe environment.
“Evidence is neither the first, nor the second or third line of defense to protect our children, students or COVID-19 staff, tests alone will not save them, ”said Jay Varma, Mayor’s Health Advisor. Regarding the test results of the last three days in the schools in the yellow zones, it was reported that of the 3,100 tests that were taken, only four were positive.
And on the issue of tablets that are pending delivery, Lauren Siciliani, representative of the Department of Education, mentioned that although 350,000 were distributed to children who did not have internet access at home, there are still 77,000 pending applications, another fact that caused annoyance to the president of the Council’s Education Committee.
Alejandra Lopez, A mother of two elementary school children, she joined in the criticism of the City, warning that at the school she sends her little ones to in Long Island City, there are still no teachers all the time to teach face-to-face classes.
“I don’t know then why you send them to class. If it weren’t because I have nowhere to leave them and have someone take care of them, I wouldn’t send them, because they don’t learn anything. This is very messy, ”said the Colombian mother.
NYC schools in data
- 1.1 million students are in NYC schools
- There are 1,800 schools throughout the city.
- 645,000 classrooms were inspected to ensure good conditions
- 99% of them are working
- 64% of parents have chosen to send their children to face-to-face classes.
- 46% of children have opted for totally remote classes
- 520,000 students were expected to attend face-to-face classes, but the total that arrived is not yet known
- September 21, only pre-school and special needs children returned
- September 29 elementary school students from Kindergarten to grade 8 returned to face-to-face classes
- October 1, middle and high school children, transfers, and adult students returned to schools.
- 4,500 new teachers were assigned to schools
- 7,000 to 12,000 new teachers say they are needed to cover the new class strategies
Useful information about schools
- To enroll in the free child care program, you can register at this link: schools.nyc.gov/learning bridges
- If you have any questions about the status of your child care application, please write a message to [email protected]
- To clarify other doubts call 311
Families can access information about the school reopening plan at this link: https://schoolsearch.schools.nyc/
- If a family or student needs a tablet for their children to start the school year, they can request one on this page https://coronavirus.schools.nyc/RemoteLearningDevices