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 When Mother Nature strikes us with raging nor'easters and hurricane-like winds, private school and suburban school officials waste no time in preserving the safety of their students and staff by shutting down their institutions while the hazards cease. For the families and staff members of NYC public schools, however, there's almost always the chance that schools will be open, and if there is a school closing, public school students and staff are told that they must “replace” the weather days with a shortened summer vacation or holiday day. As a disabled mother raising four NYC public school students, I am very passionate about being a voice for others who suffer the hardships of these bad calls.
The decision to reopen schools the day immediately after a heavy snowstorm simply because the precipitation has stopped falling indicates that the mayor and school chancellor have not considered: (1) the safety of our children,(2) the territories that are more severely affected by these hazards—such as coastal and valley areas—and (3) the exacerbation of medical conditions caused by severe weather.
Additionally, stripping away summer vacation days or holidays to “replace” lost days due to weather is unfair and equivalent to punishing the public school system members for the weather. No other school system engages in this practice.

To open schools the day immediately after a blizzard imposes unnecessary safety risks to the students, their families and school staff members. The following list highlights just a few major examples of many:

1. Families who live in areas like Far Rockaway, Rockaway Beach, Bronx River, Coney Island, etc, deal with higher weather dangers. There are higher winds, along with tidal flooding onto their sidewalks—and routine falling dangerous debris such as traffic lights being ripped off of their hanging posts, or heavy trees and electrical poles falling. In such areas, freezing temperatures and many other dangers are more severe than inland areas. Winds are much more bitter, stronger and gustier than average. Ice and snow takes much longer to melt, and almost always, the city plows have not yet been able to clear side roads, so snow from main roads are shoveled onto those side streets. This creates higher snow and ice piles to navigate through to get to school.

2. Pregnant women, parents with young toddlers, and elderly/disabled caretakers are exposed to those risks trying to get their school-aged students to a school whose doors should not have been opened at all.

3. Freezing temperatures and arctic air puts asthma, respiratory illness, and rheumatology illness suffers at dangerous risk of exacerbating their conditions.

4. Public school teachers majorly live in suburban areas--far away from the schools they teach in, and those areas are usually ones where higher snowfalls occur. They must dig out their cars, then get on roads that have not been plowed yet, to drive highways against high winds to teach a class that will most likely be only 5% populated.

While the above mentioned issues are gravely serious and must be addressed, there is yet still another blow being delivered to the students and staff members of NYC public schools that also calls for action. NYC public schools want to force students and staff to “replace” lost attendance days due to weather by shortening their summer vacation days. Our children have been force-fed a rigorous “work-only” protocol, and taking away any part of their necessary mental rest needed at the end of a test prep pressuring school year is unacceptable when other options are available.

As a safer and productive alternative to maintaining attendance integrity, we petition the NYC Department of Education to either implement new--or enable existent online portal systems to function as virtual classrooms . Students and teachers can engage in instruction from their homes on severe weather days and our children will maintain attendance without endangering anyone's physical safety on the roads. This will also provide the officials of NYC the opportunity to properly clear out dangers without interruption. A majority of other states have already embraced the benefits of online technology and implemented regular virtual classroom access. NYC currently has an online portal system which is used for make up test prep assignments by children who were out sick. This should be used for more than just making up test prep assignments or practice. Open them up as functioning classrooms on sever weather days! The weather is beyond our control. All other school systems recognize this and protects their students and staff. Why should the NYC public school system compel their members to submit to a penalty they don't deserve?


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