ALBANY, N.Y. (September 7, 2021) — With public schools across New York preparing for the new school year amidst rising COVID-19 cases, public education advocacy organization Alliance for Quality Education released the following statement:
“We know that students learn best in the classroom. We are about to begin the third school year impacted by COVID-19, yet we still have not done everything possible to ensure learning can happen safely and successfully. With the rise of the Delta variant, we should be more cautious and proactive by doing what we can to curtail the spread of COVID-19, particularly when we are dealing with our children. Districts’ plans must include a remote learning option for families that need it and want it,” said Jasmine Gripper, executive director, Alliance for Quality Education.
“Remote learning has been tough for some, but not all parents. If a few parents decide to keep their children home with a remote option, the safety of our schools increases particularly in communities where overcrowded classrooms are the norm. These overcrowded classrooms are predominantly filled with low-income Black and Brown students.
“Since districts have not made any significant effort to reduce class sizes since COVID-19 began, not offering a remote learning option puts those students in the most crowded classrooms at greatest risk of contracting COVID and spreading it to their families and communities. That means that it is Black and Brown students most at risk by the decision to only offer in-person instruction.
“Ultimately we want students to be in school, but not at the expense of the safety of themselves and their families. School districts cannot continue to take the trust of families for granted. They need to do their due diligence and listen to what all parents and families are demanding.
“Over the past 18 months, our state and our country has worked hard to return a sense of normalcy to entertainment, business, travel, dining, but normalcy in our classrooms has never been a stated and clear priority. One thing is clear, however: COVID-19 is still here, and we cannot allow our children to bear the cost of failed leadership and political decision making. We urge all school districts to work with families and communities to have a remote option for the students that need it,” said Gripper.
“We have learned a lot since the beginning of 2020. We have learned that we can do things differently and be successful, sometimes be more successful than before. We need to continue to move forward, not go back to the way things used to be just because that’s the way they’ve always been. As a parent, I’ve watched the Schenectady City School District in recent years prioritize equity and look to create change that increases access to success. Over the preceding months, parents, students, staff, and teachers in Schenectady continue to speak up and share ideas that reimagine what our schools could look like, knowing that together is how we create the schools we deserve. We all want our children to have an education and be safe, especially those under the age of 12 who cannot yet receive the vaccine. COVID and the Delta variant continue to be challenges to our schools and communities, disproportionately impacting poor, Black, and Brown families. All of our children and families deserve unity and out-of-the-box thinking that will allow our children to learn without risking their health or the health of those around them,” said Jamaica Miles, parent of 3 students and 1 teacher in Schenectady City Schools.
“A remote option for any family that chooses it would ensure that children feel safe in order to learn and grow. No one is suggesting that remote is better than in person, but during a pandemic that has already taken the life of 27 NYC kids and when we have the highest rate of infection in children than we have ever had, our priority is keeping our children safe. A remote option will reduce class size and allow schools to observe social distancing, which are two critical mitigation factors. Paired with increased COVID testing and supporting families that have yet to gain access to the vaccine will allow us to keep schools open for the most vulnerable children. The Mayor continues to make negligent decisions that are impacting our Black and Latinx communities negatively. We have learned we have to keep us safe. In light of that, the city must restore the remote option,” said Kaliris Y. Salas-Ramirez, PhD.
“A remote learning option gives parents the ability to make decisions that keep their children and families safe. Simply stated, parents should not have to choose between educating our children and the lives of their families. Instead of limiting options for families who have been and continue to be disproportionately impacted by this pandemic, our public school system must do what’s necessary to provide our children with the nurturing and safe learning environments we have a right to, including providing us with a remote learning option for the 2021-22 school year,” said Thomas Sheppard, CEC Presidents’ Appointee of the NYC Panel For Educational Policy.
‘The COVID pandemic has been devastating and disorienting to so many people. Amid the uncertainty, public school parents relied on a remote option for safety and consistency. The city and state now intends to deprive families of that agency to choose what’s best for their circumstances, taking into account of pre existing inequities of all kinds, including in the educational context. We are not here to debate the pedagogical efficacy of remote learning, but to emphasize the efficacy of a remote option as a valued mitigating tool. It is even more relevant now that safety guidelines have been reduced to ‘ifs and only’, poor testing protocols, while classrooms remain crowded, students return in never before experienced numbers, utilizing mass transit and a lack of a citywide mask mandate. We will continue to advocate for our agency and rights to responsive, equitable and SAFE schools by demanding a remote option for the 2021-2022 school reopening,” said Tazin Azad, Brooklyn parent.