Here we go again — putting kids last.
On Friday, Mayor de Blasio warned parents to prepare for schools to close beginning Monday. We’re inching closer to the magical 3 percent positive number, which, for reasons unclear to anyone, means schools can’t stay open.
Observers noted that the city had blown past the 2 percent threshold to close indoor dining, yet restaurants were still open. Not that there’s any scientific reason to close restaurants at that point, but if we’re willing to offer leeway to eateries, perhaps we could do the same to ensure kids get an education.
Alas, as parents dealing with city schools this year will tell you: Education just doesn’t matter here anymore.
The 3 percent number — measured on a citywide basis — was included in the mayor’s school-safety plan (to which the United Federation of Teachers agreed) to open schools using the (absurd) “blended” model. That got our kids extremely limited in-person instruction on some days and nearly non-existent remote instruction on others. What a plan.
But when COVID-19 positive rates went over 3 percent in certain neighborhoods, the 3 percent citywide number went out the window, as the UFT argued that schools in those areas should close. The union won, of course.
Of course, the arbitrary 3 percent figure is nonsense anyway. It means 97 percent of people tested are virus-free. And if all New Yorkers with no symptoms got tested, the positive rate would likely drop even further. Yet counting on healthy people to take COVID tests is no way to run schools.
That the mayor couldn’t stand up to the union was no surprise to anyone who’d been watching his tenure. But where is our hero governor, who had only recently written a book about his own spectacular COVID-19 leadership (even as New York led the country in COVID deaths)?
Gov. Cuomo, who loves to strut and show off his power, is suddenly impotent. In April, when de Blasio announced schools would be closed for the rest of the year, Cuomo jumped in, making clear the mayor lacked the power to open or close them. Cuomo shut them himself a few weeks later.
Yet now he’s leaving it up to local districts to decide whether they open or close. Does that mean de Blasio can close and open schools at his whim? How convenient. But it’s just another politician choosing unions over the kids.
Cuomo did admit something Friday that anyone who’s been following the science already knew: Schools are not where COVID is spread. “The infection rate in the schools is not the problem. It’s very low. The problem is not coming from the schools,” he said.
Cuomo added: “I would hope that the mayor and teachers and parents work to open the schools, if you close them, as quickly as possible.”
But parents know better than to have that hope. We use numbers to close schools, such as in “red zones,” but not necessarily to open them. Park Slope has been in the 1 percent range for a while, yet there’s zero talk of opening its schools full-time. And get this: Private schools in the city, which follow state guidelines, will remain open until positive rates hit 9 percent. Science? Really?
On Friday, de Blasio warned that schools won’t reopen when the citywide rate drops below 3 percent. So when we reopen will be anyone’s guess.
He also said pre-K programs inside public-school buildings will close while pre-K programs run by community-based organizations will remain open. Hizzoner’s explanation: “It’s a different reality. It’s a much smaller building. This whole concept is based on safety.” Which made about as much sense as the rest of his plan.
Nine months into the COVID-19 pandemic, New York’s leaders remain hapless and lost. Being led by science (not just saying it) was clearly too much to ask.
Meanwhile New Yorkers look at other cities that have successfully opened and stayed that way and wonder what it must feel like in a place where leaders care about children. London, Paris, Berlin all have kept their schools open even as they lock down other parts of the city. Closer to home, Miami, Dallas, Houston and suburban areas all across the country have likewise decided that yes, actually, education matters.
Not us. Sorry, kids. Hope you have better luck next year.
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