New York City schools opened Monday (September 13) without offering parents an option for remote learning, as cases of the highly transmissible COVID-19 delta variant increases across the nation.
The school district is conducting the country’s largest experiment with in-person learning during the pandemic, according to the Associated Press.
With about a million students, the NYC public school system is the largest in the nation. It’s a majority-minority district with Black and Latino students outnumbering other racial and ethnic groups.
But students are returning to classrooms without a vaccine mandate, meaning about 65 percent of the eligible student population, and roughly 75 percent of school staff, are vaccinated, according to CBS News.
Although 32.1 percent of the city’s population is white, only 15 percent of public school students are white, according to data reported by the New York City Council.
Although the city kept schools open most of last school year, the majority of families opted for all-remote learning ,while others chose a hybrid of in-person and remote lessons. Those are not options this year under the mayor’s plan.
“There are kids who have not been in a classroom in a year and a half, and they deserve better,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio stated. “Kids need to be back in school for their mental health, their physical health, their ability to develop socially, and for so many reasons.”
Many Black and Latino families find themselves in a dilemma. Kids must return to classrooms while the pandemic continues, but they were disadvantaged by the technology requirements of remote learning.
At a City Council hearing last October, school officials told lawmakers that from March 2020 to June 2020 Black and Hispanic students were left behind, WPIX reported.
Schools with a majority of Black and Brown students were eight times more likely to have low attendance and low engagement. It was blamed on internet connectivity and lack of technology.
New York City schools chancellor Meisha Porter told CBS News that masks will be required in classrooms and nearly each room has two air purifiers.
"First, I'm sending my own kid back to school, into a New York City public school," Porter said. "And so, I know parents are nervous. I think what's important is where we agree. And we all agree that the best learning happens in-person between students and teachers. And we have done the work to get our buildings safe, to get them ready, so that we can do what's most important for children."