Can Gov. Andrew Cuomo take a break from his televised pretend-victory lap, put his head together with Mayor Bill de Blasio and figure out how to open schools across the state full-time in September?
We hear a lot about “privilege” and how we have to “check” ours. But there is no one more privileged than rich politicians — with grown children and an insane amount of power to decide who can and can’t work — planning some cockamamie part-time school opening for the fall.
Recently, the city Department of Education sent a “Return-to-School Survey” to parents, asking them to rank the safety precautions they would like schools to take. The key question: “If we need to begin school next year mixing both in-person learning at school and learning at home in order to follow health and safety guidelines, please rank the scheduling options presented below from most preferred (1) to least preferred (3).”
The answer’s options included alternating weeks of in-school and online learning, sending kids to school on certain days of the week and full online-only. No full-time in-person option was provided.
How exactly are parents supposed to work full-time while their kids are in school part-time? Who is bringing them to and from school, only on certain days, and who is with them the rest of the time? “Let the nanny do it,” goes the unspoken diktat. If you don’t have a nanny, or other child-care help, well, that’s your problem.
Schools are realizing they wouldn’t even have enough space to implement the half-online, half-in-person plan.
As Selim Algar reported for The Post this month, a principal at PS 107 in Brooklyn has already sounded the alarm that, given the size of her school, current social-distancing protocols would force her to divide her student body into three sections, with each cohort attending in-person every third week.
Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza confirmed that reality and added: “I think it’s going to require all of us to be very flexible.” How reassuring.
Parents whose jobs are restarting wonder how in the world they can be that flexible. In effect, officials are forcing them to choose between their jobs and livelihoods and any hope of learning and developmental progress for their kids.
The worst part: The state and city are insisting on this — even as death and hospitalization rates continue to fall in New York, and even as we know that children are at minuscule risk from COVID-19; the death rate for those who do get it is likewise minuscule.
There are other dangers in the world that threaten children far more grievously, yet we don’t keep them locked inside. Which is why the American Academy of Pediatrics last week released a statement “strongly” urging that “all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.”
But what about the adults who work at the school, goes the counterargument. Don’t they matter? Children are not very “effective spreaders” of the disease, according to scientists. Besides, won’t adults still eventually be exposed to 100 percent of the kids as well as each other under the 50/50 plan?
This summer is already a disaster for many parents. Many day camps around the city didn’t open. The reopen directive from Gov. Cuomo either came too late for them to open for the summer, or they found the strict guidelines too onerous.
The governor’s arbitrary decisions with regard to other business are radiating uncertainty and chaos. Last week, he announced that many businesses in Phase Four won’t be able to open, after all. Inexplicably, malls, movie theaters and gyms are being denied the opportunity to prove they can open safely. The fear among parents is that schools, also in Phase Four, will share that same fate.
New York isn’t the only place living with COVID-19. Connecticut and Massachusetts schools have announced that they’re reopening fully in the fall. Denmark, Israel, Austria, Norway, Australia and New Zealand have all reopened schools. Britain’s government announced last week that it will open schools and scrap any plans for the kids to social distance.
We should be sane and follow their lead. Instead, we’re stuck with a governor who likes to play emergency executive on TV — and seems to have gotten the wrong idea about our state’s nickname. The Empire State doesn’t, in fact, have an elected emperor.