This is our daily update following the reopening of NYC schools for Tuesday, October 27th, 2020.
Here's the latest:
- In Major Shift, NYC Will Offer Public School Families Only One More Chance To Opt Into In-Person Learning
- Just Over A Quarter Of NYC Public School Students Have Attended In-Person Instruction This Year So Far
- Do you have a tip or story to share about schools reopening in NYC? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org (we can keep you anonymous)
Mayor Bill de Blasio gave an optimistic projection of increased enrollment in blended learning in the near future, declaring Tuesday that “parents now have gotten to see the school year in action. They've gotten to see how safe it is."
His remarks come a day after the Department of Education announced a major policy shift to allow families just one more chance to opt into blended learning, in a period from November 2nd to November 15th. Previously, the DOE had said families would have multiple opportunities throughout the school year to enroll in blended learning.
The new session of blended learning will commence during the weeks of November 30th and December 7th, according to the DOE -- presumably in a rollout like the beginning of the school year’s staggered start.
The DOE’s change in plans reflect the staffing issues that plagued the beginning of the school year, and schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said Monday the new policy would help keep “stability” in the school system.
De Blasio said the renewed interest would be driven by the fact that more than a month after in-person learning began, there have been an extremely low number of COVID-19 cases amongst students and teachers -- the mandatory random testing that began in early October at every school has yielded less than a 0.15 percent positive rate.
“The most important thing is that every family that wants their child in school deserves that opportunity. We've always said we would give them another opportunity. That's going to happen now between November 2nd and November 15th,” de Blasio told reporters on Tuesday, adding, “But right now, we've given parents the information they need. It is time for people to decide. And then we'll adjust the staffing accordingly. Obviously, if more kids are in school you can put less time and energy into some of these remote elements and focus more on in-school. We'll get the staffing aligned the way we need it.”
The DOE did not immediately clarify how staffing issues and teacher shortages will be handled if there’s a massive influx of new students for in-person learning next month.
De Blasio Commits To Installing WiFi At All Family Shelters For Remote Learning
The city plans to improve WiFi access at family shelters where public school students log on for remote learning during the pandemic, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Tuesday.
"The idea here is to go through every shelter where there's kids [to] get WiFi in place," de Blasio said, cautioning that some shelters' layouts are more conducive than others to WiFi router installation. "I want to make sure that kids have options immediately so they can study wherever they need to."
De Blasio added that the city's Department of Information Technology will partner with the city Department of Homeless Services to examine each of the shelters to determine which ones need reliable service. De Blasio, however, offered no details on how long it will take to complete.
The follows complaints that some students have been unable to log on for remote learning inside shelters during the pandemic. According to the most recent tally by Advocates for Children, using state data, there were 114,000 NYC public school students living in family shelters last year.
The Legal Aid Society, which had threatened to sue the city if it did not improve WiFi service at shelters, is now asking for firm details.
"The devil is in the details, and while we welcome this announcement, too much time has passed with too little action for us to accept it at face value," said Susan Horwitz, supervising attorney of the Education Law Project at the Legal Aid Society. "Until Mayor de Blasio and his Administration disclose the specifics of this plan and take meaningful steps to implement it, our young clients will struggle to access remote learning and lose valuable instruction time, while exposing their parents to possible intervention from [the Administration for Children's Services]."
The Legal Aid Society and Coalition for the Homeless sent City Hall and the city Department of Homeless Services a letter outlining instances where poor WiFi service at family shelters, specifically the Flatlands Family Residence shelter in Brooklyn, led to shoddy service. They threatened a lawsuit if the city did not respond with a plan by October 15th.
Upgrading WiFi capability at a shelter can be as simple as replacing SIM cards, according to testimony Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza provided at a New York City Council hearing almost two weeks ago.
The Mayor's Office did not immediately respond to questions on how long it will take for shelters to have their WiFi improved.
"City Hall should have addressed this issue at the start of the pandemic several months ago," said Horwitz. "Any further delay is indefensible, and we are prepared to act decisively should the City fail to provide our clients the resources that they deserve."