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Bad enough parents must play Red Light, Green Light on kids’ in-person learning; worse, the rules of the game are unclear, ever-changing and set sometimes by Mayor de Blasio, sometimes by Gov. Cuomo — two officials who are rarely on the same page.
Families are now again wondering: Are their kids’ schools about to close down for the umpteenth time — after reopening just last Monday? And what does it depend on?
Out of some 850 schools that opened the first week, 19 schools had closed for various periods by Friday — plus one Staten Island school that was shuttered before it even opened.
And the governor has been imposing new restrictions, as COVID cases and hospitalizations climb. Back in July, Cuomo set an arbitrary 9 percent positivity-rate threshold for closing schools statewide. Tuesday, Mayor de Blasio said he believes that rule is still in effect. So if COVID trends continue, new school closures may be on tap.
Yet the gov has recently stressed the importance of keeping kids in school: Amid COVID, he wrote, “the safest place” to be is in school. So, will he change or scrap his 9 percent number? Alas, his aides haven’t responded to questions about that.
Meanwhile, de Blasio vowed to open schools by early September. Then he folded in the face of a teachers-union strike threat, repeatedly pushing off the start, until he finally opened them in October — after cutting a deal with the union that included a closure threshold of 3 percent.
The uproar when he closed schools again on that basis led him to quickly reverse himself again, letting some schools reopen. Following all this?
Then there’s the game with the definition of “in-person” learning:
“It’s called [an] in-person program,” but kids “sit in front of laptops”; there’s no in-person instruction, fumes mom Halina Kosiorowska, whose third-grader attends PS 71 in Queens. Often teachers aren’t even present; kids basically spend “hours in front of the iPad in a school building.”
Online instruction isn’t improved just because kids are in a classroom. They need live, in-person interaction with teachers.
Yes, policies need to evolve as we learn more about what’s safe and what’s truly risky. But leaders need to set clearer, more reliable plans that ensure kids get a meaningful education — COVID or not.
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