Approximately three dozen parents and kids gathered outside of P.S./I.S. 128 in Middle Village on Thursday, Oct. 1, to demand the school give students the live instruction they were promised with the blended learning model.
Parents of the K-8 public school, located at 69-10 65th Dr., who enrolled their children in blended learning said they’ve gone days without teachers giving virtual classes — and they’ve had enough.
“The issue is that we don’t know why they aren’t able to do a livestream of the in-person classes for the students in blended learning,” said one parent who asked to remain anonymous.
Some parents told QNS that with the blended model, their children have in-person schooling once or twice a week and the rest of the week they are completing assignments with minimal to no teacher-student virtual interaction.
They worry their kids aren’t getting the education they deserve.
“My child’s a sixth-grader, preparing for high school … there are other parents who have eighth-graders with the same situation. How are they being graded? When it comes time to apply to high school, do they just give up?” the parent said. “Nothing is shared with us.”
Some of the parents at the protest questioned why P.S. 128 was having the issue, saying they haven’t heard of other nearby schools going through the same situation.
P.S. 128, which has 900 students and served as an REC this summer, has a stellar reputation in the surrounding community. But during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of schools in March, some parents said their children weren’t receiving live instruction then either.
During the hourlong protest, parents and kids gathered on the side of the school to talk about their concerns. Several school safety officers and an NYPD van were standing by.
A few minutes into the protest, a parent coordinator came out to speak with the group of parents.
“We have people here that are listening. You have to be patient,” they said, before leaving promptly.
The protest was organized by a concerned parent, who asked to remain anonymous, with a post that quickly gained traction on local Facebook groups.
Shortly after the post made the rounds on social media, parents received a letter from the school’s administration that afternoon saying they are working to remedy the concerns.
But parents said they’re only getting answers because of the protest, that there has been minimal communication from the school and that even the models they were presented with — blended, remote and in-person — weren’t clearly described to them.
“Why didn’t they organize this better? Be truthful to the parents,” one parent, who is an essential worker and asked to remain anonymous, told QNS. “If you decided blended, the rest of the week your child would not have a live instruction. Explain it first, then we could have organized this differently. I had no idea … My son is calling me, home alone, waiting for my 84-year-old mother to come — she has to take two buses to get over here and she doesn’t know how to work the computer.”
The parent, who had their child at the REC at P.S. 128 during the summer, said that if they knew remote learning would mean five days of live instruction, they would have opted for that instead. But childcare during their work day remained a concern.
This week, the Department of Education reported that 48 percent of public school students opted for fully remote learning this fall.
John Pastor, who has a seventh-grader at P.S. 128 doing remote learning, said the school’s principal, Camillo Turriciano, “needs to do a better job.”
“The principal has to voice our concerns to the Board of Ed. He is our liaison, not the teachers. The teachers are our liaisons in learning,” Pastor said. “If the principal comes to me and says, ‘Look, John, I went to the Board of Ed and they said no,’ guess what we’re going to do? We’re going to go to the Board of Ed, but he doesn’t tell us anything.”
Pastor and a group of parents will be sending a letter to the city and meeting with local Councilman Robert Holden this week.
Jonathan Kingston, who has two children at P.S. 128 doing blended learning, believes the issue stems from the DOE and UFT.
“I think the fish stinks from the head,” Kingston said. “I don’t think it’s appropriate, the way they’re going about this. This notion that we can jump between a live teacher some days and then some different teacher remotely sending instructions different days. There’s no reason why they can’t livestream the actual class with the same teacher, same day, and have it be seamless.”
Kingston added that while he understands that the argument that schools need more funding, he asks if the DOE is appropriately using the resources they currently have.
“More funding is not always the answer,” he said. “If you’re going to now have one teacher doing the job of what one teacher can and should do, then I would respectfully submit that more funding is not the way to go. I think the teachers union might do a great job for looking out for teachers, [but] I think that the interest of the students always should supersede the concerns of the teachers union.”
The Community Education Council for District 24 sent an email Thursday morning to encourage parents to complete a survey about their concerns and join their Parent-to-Parent Zoom meeting taking place next week. A date has not yet been announced.
DOE spokesperson Danielle Filson said they are working on ramping up live instruction for blended learners.
“We appreciate everyone’s flexibility and patience at the start of this unprecedented school year and our goal is to have in-person instruction for our blended students on their in-person days, and to ramp up live instruction for blended learners on their remote days,” Filson said. “P.S. 128 was excited to welcome the school community back this week and is offering students rich courses using both in-person and remote methods. The executive superintendent and superintendent are working closely with the principal to add additional staff as quickly as possible.”