Original article written by Eliza Shapiro for the New York Times
Parents in New York City have until November 15th, this upcoming Sunday, to decide whether or not to enroll their children in hybrid learning, a mixture of in-person and remote instruction, for the remainder of the school year. Although NYC had originally promised parents they could opt into the hybrid program every few months, Mayor DeBlasio recently reversed that decision as only a quarter of the city's students showed up for in-person classes in September. The mayor states that it has made it difficult for they city to know how to allocate teachers. Now, parents are having to consider whether the in-person learning experience is worth it for their children. Parents feel that while the city’s reopening plan focused almost exclusively on preparing buildings for safe opening —a goal they all agreed was of utmost importance — but gave little thought to how children were actually going to learn. So, despite the low virus transmission rates in schools so far, many parents and educators have begun to raise concerns about the quality of hybrid learning.
The article points to the restrictions agreed to by City Hall and the teachers’ union, the United Federation of Teachers, over the summer that limited when and how educators can teach, and that created a major staffing shortage. However, Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, points to the city's inability to plan and anticipate an increase need for teachers. Thusfar, NYC has spent about $50 million on 5,600 new full-time teachers and substitutes, and has moved an additional 2,000 department staff members with teaching licenses into schools, a decent amount considering the fiscal crisis caused by the pandemic. Even with these new hires, the city would need several thousand more teachers to make hybrid learning work according to their original plan. Furthermore, many schools also have not received enough laptops and tablets, and scores of students living in homeless shelters are struggling to log on for their online classes. Nearly half the district’s Black and Latino families decided to start the school year remote-only, along with over 60 percent of Asian-American families. White families have opted for remote learning at the lowest rate. This racial dynamic could undermine the mayor’s assertion that he had a moral imperative to reopen schools for the least advantaged families. Given these issues, there is a clear need for the city to rethink its reopening strategy when it comes to addressing the needs of students, faculty, and families.
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