Are schools ready to reopen?


To the editor:

(re: “Countless questions, few answers as schools eye reopen,” July 16)

In September, we want our children to go back to school with their friends and teachers. We miss hearing the stories of them eating in the lunchroom chatting with their classmates. We want them to learn from their teachers in a classroom, and not on a screen.

Sadly, it would be foolish of us to think that the education department will be ready to open its schools on Sept. 8.

The city’s schools have been operating on a shoestring budget for a long time before this pandemic. With new sanitation procedures and equipment, there is concern that the schools will not be operational by Sept. 8.

Many school buildings — especially in the Bronx — are almost 100 years old. Countless buildings lack adequate ventilation in classrooms, and sufficient supplies to keep clean. Before the pandemic in March, many schools lacked cleaning materials like hand soap for students, and disinfectant for surfaces. There have been no clear plans or legislation — long overdue — presented to parents about the cleaning procedures within a school building.

How can parents feel confident their children are eating lunch at a clean table, or sitting in a classroom on a sanitized chair? When a school runs out of money for cleaning supplies, how will they procure the money for the necessary sanitary procedures?

Doctors in many New York City hospitals — as well as doctors offices — are equipped with N95 masks for the protection of their patients and themselves while they perform essential health care services. Unfortunately, there is still a shortage of N95 masks in the United States, and they are difficult to procure. Will every teacher be designated an N95 mask to ensure the safety of their students and themselves, since they, too, will be providing essential services in an indoor setting?

The children of New York City have been in lockdown and isolation for many months. They need to feel safe and secure. They need to feel like they belong in their school community in order to learn. Will teachers and school staff members be creating more trauma by constantly asking kids to readjust their masks and keep a safe social distance?

New York has “flattened the curve,” in contrast to many other places in the United States that have rising case numbers of COVID-19. President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos demand that schools be open, yet we have a lag of about five days to receive the results of a coronavirus test.

What should happen if a teacher or student finds out after five days of being in school that he or she or they have tested positive? Parents are unaware of any plans for that scenario.

This past May, Gov. Cuomo cut a significant amount of state aid to schools. On July 1, our city council passed a budget that also cut a significant amount of money from the city’s public schools’ budget.

With myriad unanswered questions and less funding, are New York City’s schools ready to open on Sept. 8?

Morgan Evers
Sophie-Anne Dwyer

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