Mayor Bill De Blasio: 'We Hear The Complaints, But I Keep Saying, Just Call 311'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It’ll be at least another month before thousands of city public school students finally get a device for remote learning.

The city’s Department of Education answered a lot of questions about this and other COVID-related issues during a City Council hearing Friday, as CBS2’s Andrea Grymes reports.

“I had to lend an iPad to my nephew so he doesn’t have to attend Zoom classes on his mom’s phone,” said Judy Ling, the aunt of a public school student.

Ling’s nephew is far from alone.

At least 60,000 New York City public school students still do not have an iPad or Chromebook, months after the pandemic first started and just days after city public schools went all-remote for the second time this calendar year.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

The city DOE says 100,000 devices are on order but don’t expect them to arrive anytime soon.

“Those 100,000 devices will be delivered over the next four to five weeks,” New York City DOE Chief Administrative Officer Lauren Siciliano said.

“Four to five weeks,” education committee chair Mark Treyger said.

“Correct,” Siciliano said.

“And when did the school year, the new school year, begin?” Treyger asked.

“In September,” Siciliano said. “As you know, there have been global supply chain issues, and we are trying to get these devices out as quickly as we can to our students.”

DOE officials were on the hot seat about this and numerous other COVID-related issues.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Treyger stressed his anger over the state of city schools is not with the DOE but with the mayor.

“New York City had over half a year to get this right,” he said. “We’re talking about kids with months of interrupted instruction. This is devastating.”

The DOE says it’s also still working to improve Wi-Fi access to homeless shelters, but in the meantime, principals are working with affected families to give out textbooks, hard-copy packets and other resources.

RELATED STORY — Coronavirus Closure: Mayor De Blasio Under Fire As New York City Public Schools Return To All-Remote Learning

Mayor Bill de Blasio says criticism about this digital divide is unfair.

“We hear the complaints, but I keep saying, just call 311. If you need a new device, as long as we have one in stock, we’re getting to you immediately or as soon as it comes in. If you’re having a service problem, we’ll switch your service,” de Blasio said.

The mayor also continues to face criticism for closing schools when, he admits, they’ve been very safe.

As for reopening, there’s still no plan for when that might happen.

The DOE says it’s also working to get more hot meals to students who need them.

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