By Rep. Adriano Espaillat
Students, teachers, educators, and administrators have all been working beyond their means towards a safe and responsible start of the school year 2020-2021.
For all the work and entreaties that all parties have made, what we have is an imperfect solution. And to be clear, it is an imperfect solution because we live in an imperfect world where COVID-19 remains a real and serious threat to everyone’s health.
This is not an indictment of any parties involved, only an earnest assessment of the reality that this virus continues to spread and remains an omnipresent risk to individual’s health and safety. If further reiterates the need why we should consider delaying in-person learning until January 2021.
This latest update from New York City and the Department of Education is the second time that schools have been delayed and marks the third such delay overall. Students are only set to attend in-person for two or three days a week during a Fall term during which the length of a class period may be shortened in order to sanitize and safely transition students and teachers.
With a delayed start to the school year already delayed until the mid-to-late September and early October and the number of scheduled official religious and recognized holidays between now and the end of 2020, the total number of actual days that students will really be present will be roughly two months in total.
No one disagrees that full-time in-person tuition is best for students. But given the high rate of COVID-19 transmission and the start of the flu season, we are adding more variables to the equation. This will only further exacerbate the public health concerns that many have especially when none among us want to expose students, teachers, administrators, public employees, and their families to COVID-19.
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There is not a simple solution to this issue, but from what we have seen so far, the externalities of COVID-19 and the resulting school building closures; quarantining of students, teachers and administrators; and impacts on households is profound.
The reality is that there is too much uncertainty despite all of the extraordinary effort of all parties involved to stand up our public education system for the start of the 2020-2021 school year.
There will be those who will agree, disagree, and vehemently disagree with this supposition. But it is a consideration that we cannot summarily dismiss as much as we may want in order to return to a semblance of normal life.
I know that this has been part of conversations in other realms of education here in New York City and I want to encourage city leaders as they have demonstrated to take all possible options into consideration and ensure safety precautions that meet the standard everyone in public education expects and can be delivered.