Queens Borough President Donovan Richards is urging the city’s Department of Education (DOE) to offer a remote learning option for its public school students this fall as the COVID-19 delta variant has caused the number of positive cases to rise throughout New York City.
According to NYC health department data, cases started to increase from an average of 200 cases a week to over 1,000 cases per week in early July. Since mid-August, cases have been steadily decreasing but are still close to 2,000 reported cases a week.
In a letter written to the New York City DOE Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter, Richards said the city should be on high alert since the pandemic is still a real threat.
“Having a remote option would be prudent due to the current reality we are all unfortunately confronting,” Richards wrote. “Queens has some of the most overcrowded schools in the five boroughs, and it is concerning how schools can safely reopen for in-person learning.”
Richards added that Queens has been widely known to be the epicenter of the pandemic, and the borough is still affected by the deadly virus.
“We have to be cognizant of the fact that our children are dealing with very unusual circumstances and that this can have a lasting impact on them,” Richards wrote. “We should be doing everything possible to make this challenging time less tumultuous, not just for the students but for their parents and caretakers as well.”
The DOE responded by saying they have a “multi-layered approach to make schools some of the safest places to be during this pandemic.”
“All of our staff will be vaccinated by the end of September,” a DOE spokesperson wrote in a statement to QNS. “We engaged our families on a five-borough tour focused on fall planning and are fully prepared to welcome all our students and staff back on Sept. 13.”
The DOE also said every school will provide full-time instruction to all students based on current guidance from the American Pediatric Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state of New York.
Students, teachers and staff will be screened for symptoms at home and masks will be required in schools, according to the DOE. The city will also hold vaccination drives at schools across the city.
The DOE recently released a family guidebook that provides information on health and safety protocols in NYC schools, what students should expect and more.
Adriana Aviles, president of the Community Education Council District 26, said while she does support giving students and families a choice, she does not support remote learning.
“While I applaud [Richards] for a remote option for families, our local electeds have failed to take into consideration or remember how many families were complaining of the lack of face time with certified teachers,” Aviles said. “Some students were merely pushed through to the next grade level while the Department of Education touted the largest percentage of high school graduates … Really?”
The DOE will host a series of borough-based, back-to-school virtual forums over the next two weeks, as public school students prepare for the first day of classes on Sept. 13. The Queens forum is slated for Wednesday, Sept. 1. from 8 to 9:30 p.m.