The Omicron variant knocked New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s exit, reminding him of his education successes and failures.
Mainly the failures.
Smiling in the face of adversity, de Blasio told reporters multiple times this week that schools would not shut down due to the latest variant of COVID-19 (or the coronavirus). A more transmissible version of the virus, COVID-19 has shut down the city again. But the mayor believes that schools remain a sanctuary for children, faculty, and staff.
“We’re applying the rules we’ve had over the last few months consistently. We have four schools that are closed out of 1,600. We have hundreds of classrooms closed, but that’s out of 48,000 classrooms,” said de Blasio. “So, we definitely see an uptick in terms of cases, but again, against a backdrop of a school system that has, you know, the highest conceivable level of vaccination in terms of the adults, and a huge number of health and safety measures. So, the school system, the amount of COVID in the schools is about, you know, one fifth, the amount you’re seeing in the rest of the city.”
This week the city closed four schools with 25 more looking to be closed. This includes Eagle Academy for Young Men II in Brooklyn, PS 18 in the Bronx, Robert E. Peary School in Queens and City Knoll Middle School in Manhattan.
With a spike in COVID cases (according to the city health department, 22,000 people tested positive for COVID last Friday), there have been complaints about the mayor staying the course with his education policies. But others have issues with not only de Blasio, but those complaining about school and classroom closings.
“They, you know, they say one change, but they don’t want to go public,” said local resident Daniel Goodine to the AmNews. Goodine, who lives in District 23 in Brooklyn, called out his fellow residents for complaining, but not putting their name on anything.
“I know what school boards used to look like because I used to sit on one at 23 and, you know, we will fight for what they need,” Goodine told the AmNews. “And they said they had it. But still, it’s still a whole lot lacking. It has to change. I’ll try to push the ticket man.”
According to the DOE, the situation room summary, between Sept. 13 and Dec. 21, shows that there have been 21,175 positive COVID tests which includes 15,362 students. As of Dec. 21, there were 531 confirmed COVID infections, which includes 336 students.
De Blasio believes that his administration is doing the right thing leading up to the end of 2021.
No matter the mayor’s wording, the head of the teachers’ union isn’t buying it and thinks the testing policy is sorely lacking.
In part of a letter sent to the United Federation of Teachers on Tuesday, and obtained by the AmNews, union president Michael Mulgrew said that the current COVID-testing policy is not working. Mulgrew hopes Adams turns the tide.
“It’s become increasingly clear over the past 10 days that the COVID testing system in schools and the city’s Situation Room are no longer functioning at an acceptable level,” wrote Mulgrew. “The children and communities don’t care about the upcoming change in administrations. It’s up to the city to help keep them safe from this virus now.”
Some parents wanted to kick the mayor on his way out of City Hall’s door. Tamika Hall, mother of three schoolchildren (one in middle school) didn’t mince words when describing the mayor’s actions the past several weeks and his policy towards school.
“The mayor is an idiot, and the Omicron virus is disrupting the holidays,” Hall said to the AmNews. “My kids have been in and out of quarantine so many times that I decided to keep them home with the remote option. They are vaccinated and all that but even the vaccinated are popping up positive. Sadly, things are not well. We are entering 2022 the same way we spent 2020. It’s awful.
“He’s passing the buck for sure. He doesn’t care,” said Hall.
Hall wants Adams to have the schools go remote once he takes over, at least until March and then go back to in-person learning once the weather starts warming up.
“That makes the most sense,” she said.