Monday, June 5, 2023

Straight From the Trenches: Parents Report What Really Happened During NYC’s First Days Of School

Even though they had six months to plan for re-opening New York City’s schools, Mayor Bill De Blasio and Chancellor Richard Carranza still insisted on doing everything at the last minute

Schools were supposed to begin remote learning for all on Wednesday, September 16, and blended/hybrid for those who chose it on Monday, September 21. 

The evening of Tuesday, September 15, after most families had already turned off their computers, the Department of Education announced that, despite previous promises, students who opted to come to school for part of the time would not be receiving live instruction on the days they were at home. There weren’t enough teachers to go around if, as per union stipulation, those who taught in person couldn’t also teach remote classes.

Parents barely had enough time to register their dismay before, on Thursday, September 17, they were hit by another whammy: Schools wouldn’t be opening on September 21 after all. Instead, only 3-K, UPK, and District 75 (special needs) would return then. Elementary schools would open their doors on Tuesday, September 28. Middle and high schools would wait until Thursday, October 1.

The Mayor said it was so they could get 4,500 more teachers. The teacher’s union said that still wouldn’t be enough. The Chancellor said it was so they could take more safety precautions. The teacher’s union said that still likely wouldn’t be enough. The mayor and the chancellor and the union said that NYC has the best teachers and the best students and the best families in the country.

You know what? I no longer care what they say. They’ve lied to us over and over again, while claiming we parents were the ones overreacting. I only care now about what you say.

Here are NYC parents expressing their feelings about what really went on with NYC public schools the first week:

The Good:

I can’t sing the praises of The River School (PS281) loudly enough. From the centralized site they set up for remote learning last year, to the summer website and the same for this year, to the dedicated leadership, communication and genuine care, this has been an A+ experience….

Today’s call with my son’s 2 teachers (one for in person, the other for remote) was all about the kids’ feelings in general and also about how they feel about returning to school – all of them said how excited they are to go back to an actual building and see their friends. Many of the students on the call said they were most looking forward to math! 

The Bad:

First day of Kindergarten at PS 452. 10 minutes on Zoom. That’s it. Yesterday was a frenzy of emails that gave very little information, other than a list of supplies…. the day before school “started.”  Beyond underwhelmed and I imagine they are more on it than most….

Due to staff shortage, my first grader’s homeroom teacher at The Anderson School is actually a DOE Teaching Assistant (brand new to Anderson) with less than 5 years of experience….

As a result of staffing shortages, our elementary school (P.S. 163) is not offering science or technology on any days, including remote days. Because the day has been shortened to 5 1/2 hours, lunch is now an instructional period.  Our school has chosen to use this instructional period to teach… gym. I really cannot do this better justice than to quote the way our principal has described this: “Students will lower their masks, consume their lunches, and listen to Mr. Moran describe the concepts of gym.” In addition, the school has effectively (while denying that it has done so) eliminated its G&T and dual language program by creating cohorts which blend students from both these programs and Gen Ed. They claimed that if they tried to keep the original classes in the same cohorts, there might not be enough room for a couple of students. But as the number of all-remote opt-ins increased, this ceased to be a possibility, yet the school refused to alter its approach. The school is claiming that it will somehow offer “enrichment” to the G&T students on an ad hoc basis, but it has not provided any specifics, and no one is buying it. The principal knows that while G&T exists, having the program at the school brings certain benefits, but I believe he also knows that an administration hostile to G&T as a concept will never second-guess this move. The dual-language program appears to be an innocent bystander….

My child is enrolled at ps 124 Yung Wing; 3rd grade G&T; blended. The G&T program has been mixed in with the rest of the grade. 26 of the 99 in the grade have opted for blended (63 for remote). We have not been informed who will teach the class when they are not in school, only that it will be a team member. The blended group is being divided into Group A and B with 13 in each. The usual G&T teacher for third grade is teaching full-time remote. The two days this week were each a one-hour orientation about the masks and class room rules and kids introducing themselves. No details were given on how the remote days will work. So far it seems very haphazard.

The Ugly:

I’m an AP in the DOE and I’m also a parent of 2 NYC kids, ages 12 and 5. Neither of their schools sent out sufficient information to be ready for even this first day of remote learning (9/16). I know it’s not their fault, because I’m experiencing it on the backend. Guidance is changing daily, policies are changing, staffing is changing, student cohorts are changing as more parents register and opt in to remote. It’s a mess right now and we need more time!….

Lots of private schools already open not because they have money, because their leadership team, staff and faculties work tirelessly during the summer on the COVID protocols so that school is ready to open as scheduled. I feel like the public school didn’t make any effort and didn’t not take ANY COVID-related action during the summer. It’s not the fault of teachers. It’s the problem of government and leadership. I read that NYC public schools spend $28,808 per student on average. This news is astonishing to me. Money is not the real issue. The true issue is the leadership. I really hope NYC could put Taxpayer’s money in good use for students…

I wish DeBlasio and Carranza would show some sense of responsibility towards the children in NYC! It’s outrageous how they are messing with their education, with no accountability whatsoever! Do parents not have any rights? Are we cattle that we can be pushed around like this!!!!!!….

Enough is enough. Announce full remote. It’s not perfect but at least it allows parents to plan their schedules. It will also allow for equitable education across the classroom. Right now kids aren’t getting live instruction. Full remote cohorts are being taught part time by subs or other teachers that aren’t fully trained for that grade level or even worse like at our school, ps 150, which uses a non common core curriculum of Singapore math and teachers college reading and writing workshop – are these remote teachers even trained to teach these subjects?….

Some schools with GT classes are keeping GT teachers for the blended in person and blended remote cohorts. Full remote GT kids at the same school are getting placed with sub teachers teaching the GE curriculum. If a GT parent pulls their child from blended to full remote they get to keep learning with the blended GT remote teacher. How is this fair?….

The Mayor, the Chancellor and our local electeds should apologize for their ineptitude. I’m sorry, but my two 15 minute virtual sessions are NOT a high quality virtual education. This team is stealing from our children’s future by not providing an education, stealing from families by not providing stability needed to work and make a living and not providing a safe place for kids to learn despite being given 6 months of lead time to plan!

This post first ran here at New York School Talk.

Alina Adams
Alina Adams is a New York City mom of 3 school-age children and a New York Times best-selling author of soap-opera tie-ins, figure-skating mysteries and romance novels. After going through the NYC school application process with her own children and realizing just how convoluted, Draconian and needlessly complex it was, Alina resolved to help make all parents aware of all their school choices—and how to get them—via her books, “Getting Into NYC Kindergarten” and “Getting Into NYC High-School,” as well as her podcast, “NYC School Secrets: Parents Helping Parents.” Read more and listen at:


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