Hey, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Richard Carranza: It’s time to close New York City’s schools. Now.
As the city hunkers down to get through the coronavirus pandemic, it is insane and dangerous that its public school system remains open.
Yes, many New Yorkers rely on the city public school system for child care. And many rely on the system to feed their children breakfast and lunch. But there has to be a Plan B to feed hungry children across our city, and our elected officials need to dig deep right now and find the cajones to implement that plan.
Keeping schools open to play babysitter and feed kids promotes the noxious idea that poor people care less about their kids’ health and won’t mind that they are sending them into a dangerous situation at their schools.
That fallacy needs to be put to rest.
One key reason people continue to send their kids to school right now is that they haven’t been told by authority figures not to. Fact is, we don’t know what to believe, and we’re conditioned to wait until our elected officials give us the go ahead to keep our kids home.
But somehow, while sporting events get canceled and restaurants are ordered to function at no more than 50 percent of their maximum legal capacity, the school doors remain open. Our teachers are expected to remain in crowds at school while everyone outside is warned to avoid them.
Initially, many parents were concerned about having their kids marked absent, since many schools, including kindergartens, use absences when considering admissions.
After bungling its initial response, the Department of Education finally clarified that absences would not count against students this year. Yet the lack of trust between parents and the DOE has been brought into sharp focus. Even in the middle of a global pandemic, parents can’t be certain their leaders will do the right thing.
Our system also has to be nimble enough to take situations on a case-by-case basis, and it’s proving that it is not.
On Thursday, PS 107 in Brooklyn reported that a parent who had been inside the school building in recent days tested positive for the coronavirus. Two children who attend the school are awaiting their test results. Yet the school has been kept open.
The Inside Schools website reports that only 9 percent of the students at the Park Slope school qualify for free lunch. So why not err on the side of caution and close the school? Why must it be an all-or-nothing proposition? Let’s get that 9 percent an alternate food source, if they need it, so 100 percent of the kids won’t risk catching the bug.
City Councilman Brad Lander and Assemblyman Robert Carroll insisted the school at least be subject to a 24-hour-closure rule, as it would be when a teacher or student tests positive. Alas, Carranza and his underlings declined their pleas.
Meanwhile, charter-school network Success Academy will move to remote learning next week. School districts in states across the country have closed. Colleges have sent students home. Why isn’t the city school system taking the threat as seriously?
As The Post’s Julia Marsh and Joshua Rhett Miller reported, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson has called for schools to close and, to address the child-care and meals issue, suggests using a summer school-type setup, with some schools in each borough staying open for kids who have nowhere else to go.
In the meantime, we’re sending a message to teachers that we don’t care about them, that they’re not as important as the rest of us. Everyone else is told to quarantine and “social distance” as much as possible while teachers play emergency staff on the frontlines, a role for which they have not signed up nor been trained.
In the wake of this global emergency we are being urged to take care of each other. While the virus has proven less fatal to children, there is evidence they can be carriers and spread it to others. Closing the schools is a step in taking care of our entire population.
We delay at our own peril. Close the schools.