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Parents, Teachers Unite Against ‘Super-Spreader’ School Reopenings

New York, NY – The city may have agreed to delay in-person classes for 10 days amid a potential strike from the UFT, but for some parents it’s not enough to ensure the safety of their youngest loved ones.

Protesters against Mayor de Blasio’s school reopening plan rally in Foley Square.

Earlier this month, Tanesha Grant, the former administrator for the Wall of Moms chapter in New York, a member of Mom United for Black Lives, an organizer and education activist, participated in a Rally for Safe Education at Foley Square. 

“That day we did two things,” said Grant. “We went to Mayor [Bill] de Blasio’s house and Schools Chancellor [Richard] Carranza’s house and gave them a wake up call with pots and pans in Foley Square. We are hoping for school to go totally remote.”

The lack of proper ventilation and teachers for both remote and in-person learning is troubling to Grant and the nearly 200 people that came out to the Foley Square rally that was hosted by NYC School Workers Solidarity Campaign, Parents Supporting NY Inc., Local 100 Fightback and MORE UFT. 

“Schools don’t have enough teachers to full the positions,” said Grant. “There is no funding. We need to go totally remote.”

Mark Cannizzaro, the president of CSA, shares Grant’s sentiments and issued a slew of statements addressing similar concerns about in-person classes. 

“The 2,000 additional teachers the mayor referenced in his press conference,” said Cannizzaro on Tuesday, “is woefully short of the over 10,000 teachers that we estimate New York City principals have already requested. We urge the DOE to be transparent with the public about their citywide tally of principals’ requests, so we can have a realistic conversation of what is truly needed to open schools successfully next week.”

The increasing number of teachers testing positive for COVID-19 as they go went back to schools to prepare lesson plans is also alarming to Grant. 

“My kids are not going back. I have a 13-year-old and a 17-year-old who are going totally remote,” said Grant. “Up to 55 people tested positive for COVID – that was just the teachers. That is just going to be a super-spreader. Our schools are just going to be a super-spreader. A lot of kids are going to be asymptomatic and they are going to bring it home to their families, because a lot of black and brown families live together since they can’t afford rent on their own.”

While her children’s schools, the James Baldwin School and the Eagle Academy, are not overcrowded, as an education advocate, Grant is still concern for the overall well-being of all of the city’s more than one million students. 

“The most important thing to me was ventilation, the school’s infrastructure that weren’t suitable for our kids before COVID. They are really not suitable now. It’s not a safe environment. For them trying to push it is horrible. It’s an example of poor leadership,” said Grant. “Parents don’t even know how to navigate what is going on because the information coming from the Department of Education is so confusing.”

Hybrid in-person and remote learning is expected to begin within the next five days, according to the Department of Education. 

“Even though today is the first day of remote learning for all New York City students, the city still has no comprehensive, adequate plan for fully staffing our schools. The DOE’s last-minute announcement that live instruction is no longer required during remote days for blended learners is obviously an attempt to deal with the staffing crisis that CSA has been warning the DOE about for months,” said Cannizzaro. “Though an increased focus on in-person learning is necessary due to pressing safety concerns, last night’s decision to change instructional guidance will not solve the most glaring, urgent problem: far too many schools still do not have enough teachers for in-person learning when school buildings reopen for students on Monday.”

While Grant is fine with her children receiving remote learning, she is worried about her grandson, 4, who needs special education and so far she hasn’t learned much regarding students with special needs. 

“They are trying to tell us that they are going to check the ventilation for 1,800 schools in 10 days and act like everything is okay, like we don’t know that it is messed up. We know there is lead in the water. You guys think that we are dumb. This is just trying to shut us up,” said Grant. “It’s messed up for my grandson. My grandson gets services, but he hasn’t gotten any since he has been home because of COVID since March.”

Grant’s grandson requires occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy. 

“They have no care for kids with special education. Nobody is talking about them,” said Grant. “They expect kids to be ready by the 21st – no!”

Grant believes it might be necessary to have remote learning for the rest of the school year. 

“We are not going back to there normal,” said Grant. “The schools were severely underfunded before [COVID]. This is something we have been fighting for.”

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