When the nation’s largest school system — New York City’s — canceled all in-person classes and went to full-remote learning this week, issuing a Wednesday afternoon announcement, it left parents scrambling, once again, to make arrangements and get psychologically prepared for more disruption in the midst of the never-ending COVID-19 pandemic.
The decision — based on a September reopening agreement between Mayor Bill De Blasio and the United Federation of Teachers that said the city would shut down all in-person learning if the average positivity rate hit and remained at 3 percent over a weeklong period, which it did — prompted exasperation and outrage. Particularly since NYC’s gyms, bars and indoor dining would remain open for the time being.
In response to the closure, the parental-Twitter universe exploded with creative anger and sarcasm, NYC-style, with some of the longest threads prompted by New Yorker editor Jessica Winter, who posed the question of holding classes in still-open eateries.
Can the kids go to school in restaurants
— Jessica Winter (@winterjessica) November 18, 2020
But also —can they go during oyster happy hour? thanks.
— JackAtIrving (@jackiebelson) November 18, 2020
That would be the perfect protest, actually, just descend on all the restaurants with our masked kids and their laptops ....
— Kera Bolonik (@KeraBolonik) November 18, 2020
Some took offense on behalf of restaurants, however, prompting even more back-and-forth.
Yes because it’s the restaurant owners fault that schools have closed. And that there is a pandemic. And that they have been offered no rent relief to be able to stay closed for what will amount to a year. Please, take your anger out on us because we are the villians.
— jen is wearing a damn mask (@originaljaytee) November 19, 2020
damn, that'd show... restaurant employees??
— Hobotron (@Hobotron2000) November 19, 2020
That prompted a subsequent apology from Kera Bolonik, the editor-in-chief of Dame magazine who had suggested the “protest” in the first place — and also anecdotes that yes, indeed, eateries are being used as ad hoc classrooms, including a donut shop in Houston, Texas.
My daughter's kindergarten "pod" is using one of our closed bars as a classroom. So, yeah.
— ezra caraeff (@ezra_ace) November 18, 2020
True! A donut shop near me set up space for distance learning for students who can't be left home alone.
— Dang and Blast! (@Dangandblast) November 18, 2020
Others expressed pure anger at what they perceived as misplaced priorities.
In this addition of COVID19 ass-backwards, NYC public schools will be remote-only starting tomorrow, as the percent positivity crossed 3%.
Should parents drop their kids off at the bar, indoor restaurants, or the gym - all of which are still open?
— Craig Spencer MD MPH (@Craig_A_Spencer) November 18, 2020
BREAKING: NYC passes 3% 7-day positivity, closes schools as of tomorrow.
While continuing to allow indoor dining to continue, leaving gyms open, and not even telling NYers they should work from home if they can.
THIS IS TOTALLY BACKWARDS
— Mark D. Levine (@MarkLevineNYC) November 18, 2020
I don't get why NYC feels bound to stick by a 3% positivity rule for closing schools when we know more about the virus now, including relatively low rates of transmission in schools. If I were a parent I'd be furious.https://t.co/CfZJPDYENy
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) November 18, 2020
NYC: Stores open. Restaurants open. Gyms open. Salons open. Schools closed. Failure of leadership.
— John Cassidy (@JohnCassidy) November 18, 2020
As a parent of a NYC public school student, I am angry and sad and frustrated and disappointed. Still baffled about why we prioritized indoor workouts and indoor dining over education. https://t.co/Bqbr4n6g1r
— Melissa Korn (@melissakorn) November 18, 2020
This really is tragic and frankly a smudge on all parties involved. How this decision came down, the pettiness and bickering, that the closure is not based on science but instead pre-negotiated metrics, that parents of 300k kids just learned at 2 pm their kids’ schools are closed https://t.co/uIHsx1TE0o
— Ida Bae Wells (@nhannahjones) November 18, 2020
Irony remained popular into Thursday.
Hold on have to get off my gym’s elliptical and head to a bar and have a glass of wine there before I share my thoughts about NYC’s public school shutdown
— Faith Salie (@Faith_Salie) November 18, 2020
Could we just close schools at 10 pm?
— Eric Klinenberg (@EricKlinenberg) November 18, 2020
Thinking about how schools are closed in NYC but Chuck E. Cheeses are open in Florida.
— Whitney Ayres Kenerly (@WKenerly) November 19, 2020
Some stood up for the decision, though, including an art teacher who described harsh in-school conditions.
I go to work every day and teach my students in full PPE plus in our coats. NYC does not have a functional COVID testing in the schools. Ventilation is not adequate so the windows have to be open in the winter.
— Lisa Pines (@PinesLisa) November 19, 2020
Instead of snark, how about some articles on getting Teachers to be among first to be inoculated for COVID19 so that they can be in the school rooms??
— KatyCourt (@nyckatyc) November 18, 2020
Former CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden, who shared a Nicholas Kristoff opinion piece from the New York Times, discussing the havoc that remote learning can wreak for kids, kicked off a lively discussion of classroom safety and priorities.
School closures should be a last resort. Schools, especially elementary schools, can stay open, more safely. And, fundamentally, as @NickKristof writes eloquently, "Dropouts live shorter lives, so while the virus kills, so do school closures."https://t.co/icvFddZdzX
— Dr. Tom Frieden (@DrTomFrieden) November 19, 2020
Many schools cannot stay open due to ongoing staffing issues. When the virus is surging in your area, many are testing positive & then they and everyone they’ve come in contact with has to quarantine for 2 weeks. There is a major lack of substitutes too. They can’t stay open.
— Mrs. KelC (@MrsKelC83) November 19, 2020
Many teachers aren’t willing to go into the classroom. It’s not an on and off button. Bars, clubs, and restaurants are open even as Atlanta schools are online only. This isn’t a one time failure during a public health crisis. This is a reflection of our society’s priorities.
— Jesse Couk, MD, MSc (@jessecouk) November 19, 2020
@NickKristof - Here in the U.K., we are all staying home so that schools can stay open. Don’t know why the US can’t get this right.
— Melissa (@Melbane) November 19, 2020
A Tennessee mom pointed out the safety disparity between states...
NYC schools are closing as the positivity rate reaches 3%.
Meanwhile we are down here at over 17% of tests coming back positive.
— TNWorkingMom 📢 (@TNWorkingMom) November 19, 2020
… while Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, called the 3-percent mark “arbitrary.”
Agree totally. The NYC schools decision was based on an arbitrary number and not reflective of transmission risk at school or the long term harm this decision will cause to children https://t.co/IzPnwWQXoO
— Amesh Adalja (@AmeshAA) November 18, 2020
Still, some have spoken out, like the art teacher who tweeted, about the less-than-ideal learning environment in classrooms that had poor ventilation systems and kept windows open, despite cold and rain, to counteract this.
“The kids were freezing. We’re freezing. We can’t focus. Rain water was coming in,” an NYC teacher told CBS New York recently, adding that some of her students wore coats and sat up against heaters to stay warm. “The message to us was ‘Keep the windows open but blast the heat and bundle up,’” she said. “That’s just not a responsible response.”
For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides.
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