According to a new survey by USA World News and Ipsos of over 500 K-12 teachers and 400 parents of K-12 students, 20% of teachers said they are unlikely to return to the classroom in September, concerning some that there’s a flood of resignations on the horizon. And 60% of parents said they would rather pursue at-home learning instead of sending their children back in the fall. What does all this signal for parents and teachers in New York City?
First, the article didn’t share the geographic location and socio-economics of the teachers and families surveyed, so it's hard to say whether it's representative of New York City. In our city, 74% of students in the city qualify for free and reduced lunch, which is a popular indicator of poverty. When you consider that 97% of the survey respondents said they had sufficient internet access, it suggests that the sample did not have a lot of your average New York City parent in the mix.
Still, the survey results give us some new tea leaves to read. Here three of my take-aways:
Public health concerns will continue to outweigh education concerns. Most officials are now quite clear that reopening schools will be determined by public health needs. If South Korea is a bellwether, though, we need to proceed very carefully. Dozens of schools in Incheon had to close shortly after re-opening, and that was with a thorough set of health procedures around social distancing.
Teachers’ health concerns will likely become an issue. We haven’t heard too much about this yet in New York, but based on the survey results, and what’s going on in the United Kingdom, we might expect to hear more about teachers who cannot or will not return to schools. This is especially the case for teachers who are themselves high risk for Covid-19 or have others in their household who are high risk. The City will need creative ways to make sure they can still contribute to the teaching of children, however, which should include the option to become a remote teacher for a NYC virtual school.
Families' professional needs must be honored. My wife and I are in privileged positions during the pandemic: we can both work from home. That is not the case for many parents in New York City. For those families, a primary concern is whether school will be available for their children so they can go to work. It’s an economic reality that city officials, and other parents, must honor. (I have some ideas on how to do so. Keep reading.)
Hybrid and/or remote models of learning are inevitable in the fall. When you read the survey results, and when you look at what other countries are facing as they reopen schools, it seems to me inevitable that there will be hybrid and/or remote models of learning will happen in the fall. Not September: the fall. And possibly into 2021. Putting aside some families’ and teachers’ frustration with remote learning generally, city officials will likely want to send students back to school in order to help parents get back to contributing to the economy. One way to do so would be to explore models of learning that allow officials to have it both ways. Child care is an issue mostly for parents of children of younger ages. What if students in grades 7-12 continued with remote instruction, taking classes via a citywide virtual school or with their local teachers online, and visited school sites periodically for one-on-one counseling meetings? And, what if the older students’ classroom space was made available for PreK-6 grade students to socially distance during a face-to-face school day? As a rule, parents should have the option of sending their children to the physical school or to participate in remote learning on safety grounds (like France).
My hope is that in the coming weeks, we will see the City holding meetings to invite families to share their concerns and ideas for how to re-open. They are currently doing so with screened admissions (as we reported in our weekly newsletter). They should also do so for scenario planning for the fall. The more transparent the City is, and the sooner they make some key decisions, the better chance we all have of being prepared for whatever comes next.
What do YOU think about returning to school in September? What are you comfortable with? What not? Tell me your thoughts in the COMMENTS section.