Is New York City ready for the 2021-’22 school year? New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is, though much of the public might not be.
The mayor reiterated his stance that with all precautions factored in and the increase in the numbers of New Yorkers getting the COVID vaccine, school (and the city overall) should go off without a hitch…with no option for remote learning.
“…Again, we’ve seen incredible efforts by our vaccination team and New Yorkers responding,” said the mayor to reporters. “So as of today, 10,711,011 doses. This number has been climbing steadily. The incentives are working. The mandates are working. Vax to School is working. You’re going to see that number keep climbing. Number two, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19. Today’s report, 142 patients, confirmed positivity, 30.72%. Hospitalization rate, 1.26 per 100,000. And the number three, new reported cases on a seven-day average. Today’s report 1,589 cases.”
As of Sept. 1, the rolling 7-day average is 1,844.
While the mayor may see sunshine and butterflies, the New York City Council sees otherwise. On Wednesday, the council held a hearing addressing the safety measures for the school year and questioned the safety of going ahead as planned.
With the Delta variant wreaking havoc on the country and Delta cases rising in some parts of the city, Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter and Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi were peppered with questions from council members who wanted to know everything.
Education Committee Chairman Mary Treyger led the attack on de Blasio’s policies, wondering why the mayor was hard-headed in listening to his constituents.
“Is this the best we can do?” asked Treyger. “Are we effectively balancing the health and safety of students and staff with the education needs of students? There’s been a major communications gap. The plan we have before us has to go much farther. I’m in support of a remote option for our families.”
As of right now, some of the measures the administration has taken in the city’s public schools include: health and temperature screenings, universal mask wearing, social distancing, enhanced cleaning, the availability of more personal protection equipment (PPEs), ongoing surveillance and diagnostic testing, and new closure and quarantine policies.
But, according to Treyger, some of the old infrastructure of schools can’t handle the electricity needed for machines that create ventilation. He told a story about a teacher who plugged in the ventilation and it lessened or took out the power from other parts of the room.
New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams also spoke at the hearing and called for an immediate remote learning option due to the Delta variant creeping up on the five boroughs.
“It’s déjà vu all over again…said Williams. “…The highly contagious Delta variant poses a new challenge to the vaccinated and the unvaccinated alike. It is imperative that the Department of Education have a clear, transparent plan for protecting students, educators, school staff, and their families before the school year begins. The DOE should also provide a remote learning option for students and educators who do not feel comfortable attending learning in-person; until students of all ages can be vaccinated against COVID-19 and the Delta variant is under control, students and educators are at risk in school buildings.”
But all is good in de Blasio’s world. The mayor said this week that New York has met the standards and has gone beyond them to the point where no remote option is needed.
“All those health and safety measures, what I call a gold standard, and it really was,” said the mayor. “And they worked, we saw it work. And then this year on top of that, we have, citywide, 5.4 million people who have had at least one dose of the vaccine. We have 325,000 12- to 17-year-olds already. Several weeks until school opens. We have a vaccine mandate for all adults in school buildings. All of this is going to add up to keep kids safe.”