NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Mayor Bill de Blasio made another attempt to convince teachers and principals in the city’s 1,800 schools that they will be safe and ready to reopen in just over three weeks, but some say there are just too many unanswered questions.
As CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported Monday, in the Army, DEFCON 5 is the lowest state of readiness for war, but at least one New York City teacher says the mayor’s efforts to ready his troops to reopen schools doesn’t meet minimum standards.
“If there’s a negative DEFCON number for non-preparedness, I would go there, simply because too much is uncertain right now,” said Doug Condon, visual arts teacher at the Academy of American Studies.
The mayor tried to convince teachers and principals that they — and their students — will be safe. He even produced a little video, which says electrostatic sprayers will effectively disinfect surfaces and rooms without good ventilation will not be used.
Four million face masks, 3.5 million bottles of hand sanitizer and more than 80,000 containers of disinfecting wipes are being made available to schools, according the video.
“We’re going send them the supplies in great bulk before school begins, and then constantly resupply, as needed,” said de Blasio.
The mayor said principals will be able to call a special hotline to order additional supplies throughout the year at no cost.
The city will also rely on 7,350 maintenance workers to disinfect school buildings at the end of each day and clean “high touch” areas throughout the day.
The city said it inspected each classroom’s ventilation system and rooms deemed inadequate will not be used.
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But for teachers like Condon, who was enjoying lunch with his family in his Queens backyard, there are just so many unanswered questions about safety and about learning. Take lunchtime. In a city that doesn’t allow indoor dining, kids are supposed to eat indoors at their desk.
“We were told that students should face away from the teacher. The teacher should be at the back of the room while students are eating, so they’re not breathing towards the teacher. My question is if the instruction is supposed to happen as the kids are eating, how am I teaching a class from the back of the room and the kids are looking away for me?” Condon said.
He’s also concerned about the spread of disease after nearly six months of social distancing. He said even in normal times, teachers get sick.
“In the fall, every teacher I know gets sick, because once you get all the kids back in the building, you pick up a cold. You pick up the flu. Every fall, everyone you know is going to get sick, but now it’s something there’s no cure for,” Condon said.
The mayor and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza didn’t help the situation when they were asked about how remote learning will take place and who would do the teaching.
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“It’s a work in progress,” de Blasio said. “Some of it will be determined in the actual doing, like so much in the rest of life… This is a wartime situation, not everything will be perfect.”
“We are in the throes of those detailed training processes right now,” Carranza said.
The chancellor said the goal is to have remote learning sessions taught by a teacher in the student’s school, but there’s no guarantee.
Parents expressed concerns about technology.
South Bronx residents J. Shelton and her 6-year-old son are among the 300,000 families that received hotspot-enabled remote learning devices from the Department of Education ahead of schools reopening.
“Sometimes the Wi-Fi connection is poor, based on other carriers clashing,” Shelton said.
She told CBS2’s Ali Bauman she’s worried her son could fall behind in first grade if his internet can’t keep up on the days he learns from home.
“It freezes. What do you do? Sometimes you can’t always reach out for help,” Shelton said.
A new study from the nonprofit Common Sense Media found 27% of students and 9% of teachers in New York state do not have adequate internet access at home.
“If you live in public housing, for example, the thick concrete walls in a lot of older public housing can block signals from coming through,” Common Sense Media senior policy advisor Danny Weiss said.
Weiss said the digital divide exacerbates the learning gap between the haves and the have-nots.
“It’s another way that we’re seeing where the coronavirus is highlighting racial and economic disparities,” Weiss said.
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