By Stephon Johnson
There will be no remote option. Correction: there might be a remote option. Correction: an option that might look like remote learning, but isn’t really remote learning.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams attempted his equivalent of a weekend news dump (or a Thursday one) when a member of his administration revealed that they will look at a remote learning option for school…something parents and educational activists have clamored for since the last months of the Bill de Blasio administration.
Since Adams has taken the mayoral crown, he’s been steadfast in his belief that the city’s children should be attending school in person.
“We made two big changes during the school year that brought about the success we believe we’re witnessing now,” said Adams to reporters. “Number one, we distributed 4.5 million at-home rapid COVID tests, and in unbelievable distribution coordination between school administrators, law enforcement, government agencies, our team here, to get those tests in the hands of children. These rapid tests, which is very important, identified 25,000 additional people reported cases.” Adams said this allowed them to isolate the cases and avoid the spread of the virus. However, students at the prestigious Brooklyn Technical High School felt differently last week when they walked out in protest of the city’s school COVID policies. Some students asked for a remote option in order to avoid COVID infections in school.
Last week, Gothamist reported that the Department of Education allowed for asynchronous remote instruction for students who aren’t present. So, if they don’t show physically, they can still be counted as present for class.
New York City Schools Chancellor David Banks told his Parental Advisory Council (CPAC),“My goal is to create an option that will take us at the very least to the end of the school year,” stated Banks. “If I could figure out a way to do a remote option starting tomorrow I would. It’s not quite as simple as that because you have to negotiate this stuff with the unions.”
(The Chancellor’s Parental Advisory Council is made up of elected parent leaders representing New York City public school students and families. Members of CPAC are made up of the 32 school community district presidents. Attempts to contact members and educational activist groups such as Alliance of Quality Education were unsuccessful.)
Both entities have engaged in talks ever since scrounging up a plan to appease all parties.
This week, a UFT spokesperson stated, “We continue to meet with the DOE to discuss a potential remote learning program for certain groups of students.” The spokesperson didn’t go into specifics. However, last week, union president Michael Mulgrew said in a public statement that Banks is trying to manipulate the public.
“Clearly the chancellor has been misinformed about the UFT’s position,” stated Mulgrew. “We have long called for an instructionally sound remote option and have been speaking directly to the mayor about creating one, a program that will work for students.”
Not to be outdone, when asked if students should still be attending school while the mayor and the union iron out a new deal, a DOE spokesperson said, “Yes—students should be attending school.” The spokesperson also didn’t give specifics or updates on the discussion.
After several months and two mayors, a remote option is now on the table.