Assemblywoman Jessica González-Rojas recently penned a letter to Mayor Eric Adams pushing for a temporary hybrid remote learning option, as COVID-19 rates increased during the holiday season and in-person attendance has fallen by the thousands.
González-Rojas said that she was motivated to write this letter — alongside state Senator Jessica Ramos and Councilman Shekar Krishnan, and signed by 19 other New York lawmakers — as an Assembly member and as a parent with a child in fifth grade in Jackson Heights.
“I heard from dozens of teachers and parents in my community that were concerned about having their children come back to school on Jan. 3,” González-Rojas said.
The assemblywoman reached out to Ramos, who is also a parent in the area, to write a letter urging the mayor to consider a remote option. González-Rojas wanted to clarify that she was not proposing closing schools, but instead a hybrid model that would allow parents to choose the best option for their kids.
When kids went back to school after the holiday break on Jan. 3, González-Rojas decided to keep her son home for two days as COVID-19 transmission rates skyrocketed, with 90% of New York’s new cases caused by the new variant, omicron, according to the CDC. Since there was no remote option, González-Rojas said, her son wasn’t able to learn anything.
“He played video games all day. He wasn’t learning; there was no access to learning,” González-Rojas said. “I think that is a travesty for our children.”
González-Rojas said that when her son went back to school for two days last week, he was exposed multiple times as six students tested positive in his class.
Republican lawmakers oppose the remote option idea, as they wrote a letter to Adams on Jan. 7 saying that they support the mayor’s decision to keep schools open. New York State Republican Leader Rob Ortt said that remote learning is detrimental to students, and the city must avoid it.
“Remote learning has been a disaster, and we must listen to the science and keep our kids in school,” Ortt said. “Elected leaders and school officials must focus on solutions that keep our classrooms open. Education is the ladder of opportunity in America and this state cannot afford to ruin the learning and emotional well-being of our New York students.”
During a press conference last week, Adams said that the safest place for kids is school. However, on Jan. 13, the mayor said he is considering a temporary remote option and is in talks with the city’s teachers union, the United Federation of Teachers.
“I have to make sure children are educated. We lost two years of education,” Adams said. “The fallout is unbelievable. My goal is to continue to push forward to get our children in school, but I must entertain with the president of the United Federation of Teachers if there is a way to do a temporary remote option.”
This came a day after González-Rojas said her and other elected officials met with Adams and Department of Education Chancellor David C. Banks to discuss the COVID-19 surge in city schools.
Still, González-Rojas said her and fellow Jackson Heights lawmakers want children in schools, too.
“A temporary remote OPTION would help families vaccinate and test their children and give time to schools to implement necessary protocols,” she wrote in a tweet.
Queens had a 22.3% positivity rate in the last seven days, with nearly 10,000 positive cases reported, according to state data.