Petition In Support of Full Remote-Learning to Begin the 2020 School Year

Petition In Support of Full Remote-Learning to Begin the 2020 School Year

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Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Mayor Bill de Blasio

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew

Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza

Council of School Supervisors and Administrators President Mark Cannizzaro

New York City Council

New York State Senators

New York State Assembly Members

Dear Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, Michael Mulgrew, Chancellor Carranza, Mark Cannizzaro, Council Members, Senators, and Assembly Members:

Over the next few weeks the New York City Department of Education, in Collaboration with The United Federation of Teachers, and the Council of School Administrators must implement a plan to educate the 1.1 million students that attend NYC Schools, while also preventing a second wave of Covid-19 infections.  No community in the world was hit harder than New York City, where at least 22 thousand have died, at least 225 thousand were infected, and for several weeks our hospitals were completely overwhelmed, denying countless others access to the care they needed.  

In March, the Mayor abruptly interrupted in-person education and the DOE provided minimal guidance to ensure quality access to remote instruction for educators and students alike. The response from the NYCDOE has been to ask schools to choose between three vague hybrid learning models that provide zero guidance on how to educate, protect and serve our students under COVID-19. The only equitable route is to focus the next few months on ensuring full spread access to quality remote instruction to ALL the children of NYC.

  1. As stated above, at least 22 thousand have died, and at least 225 thousand were infected in NYC alone.  The risk of a “second-wave” of Covid-19 will be extremely high until there is proven vaccine and/or antiviral treatment.  According to all experts, we are just several months away from that reality. Our nation is still not over the first wave of the pandemic and experts now are sure that NYC will be hit with a second wave. This is a highly contagious and deadly virus with no known cure: After months of sacrifice and patience, we must wait for the safer option and not repeat the tragic errors of March 2020.
  2. According to the NYC Department of Health, Black and Latino New Yorkers are dying at around twice the rate of whites. Currently 66 percent (or well over 700,000) of NYC school children are Black or Latino.  On top of this, nearly 73 percent are economically disadvantaged. Our job as educators is to support and educate our most vulnerable students in any way that we can.  How can we honestly say we are doing this if we are putting their very lives, and the lives of their families at risk?
  3. A large percentage of NYC students are living with the trauma of COVID-19 already impacting their lives. Whether it be through loss, through the anxiety of living in tight quartered, multi-generational households or the experience we have all survived. By going into poorly ventilated schools and traveling on public transit, they are putting their family members, especially the elderly, at risk. We are opening schools without a clear plan in place and this is a disgrace to the memory of victims from the first wave of the pandemic. It is a slap to the face to all the essential workers who have been placing their lives on the line to ensure that our children and our city can be safe.
  4. NYC schools were not built to follow CDC guidelines for social distancing and the standards have not been met for cleanliness.  Many lack adequate access to hot or warm water, have very outdated ventilation systems, windows that don’t open, or interior classrooms with no windows at all.  In some schools students need to traverse crowded stairwells, or use elevators to access classrooms.  The Department of Education has changed their guidelines to simply suggesting that we meet the bare minimums set by the CDC. Even by limiting the number of students in the building at a given time, it will be nearly impossible to safely maintain social distance.
  5. We are not investing our resources or efforts and this is frustrating because we know that remote learning will be an inevitable reality. Under a “socially distant” classroom, students cannot work in small groups or pairs, sit with a teacher for direct feedback, or even share materials.  With all of these disadvantages, on top of the fact that students will be in the building only part time, we are putting students and staff in danger for very little benefit.  It makes far more sense to focus on making remote learning as strong and equitable as possible, until it is safe to reopen schools fully.
  6. The vast majority of NYC students travel to school by bus or public transit.  Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio on many occasions cited our public transit system as one of the main reasons that Covid-19 spread far more rapidly in our city than in other similarly populated places.  With schools reopening, we will once again be facing overcrowded transit and all the dangers that come with it.
  7. Recent studies now show that children ages 10-19 can just as easily transmit the virus as adults.  At the same time, even infants are capable of contracting this virus, and we have no understanding of what the long-term effects of that might be.

Due to all of the previously stated reasons, we the undersigned petitioners ask that NYC Department of Education does not move forward with a hybrid learning model to start the 2020 school year. As a school system, we should focus on providing widespread and complete access to quality remote learning for all students.  In order to protect the students and staff of NYC schools, and all New Yorkers, we must adopt a full-remote model until there is a proven vaccine or antiviral treatment.  Our lives are hanging in the balance.

Signed,

The Teachers, School Staff, Parents, Students, and Community Members, of NYC