A small group of parents and their children fed up with the city’s handling of education during the pandemic gathered in front of a Little Neck school Tuesday afternoon to beg for better planning.
“This is a platform for our families and our parents to be heard ... No one seems to be listening to them,” said organizer and candidate for City Council District 19 Adriana Aviles in front of PS 94. Aviles, who also serves as president of Community Education Council 26, said she has heard an overwhelming number of complaints from families struggling to adapt to the Department of Education’s constantly changing approach to learning throughout the crisis.
Public schools shut down for completely remote learning in March, but planned to return to the classroom for the 2020-21 academic year, which was partially achieved — city students were offered the choice between remote learning or a hybrid option in which they went to school a few days a week. The first day of school was pushed back several times, and then last week nearly 50 Queens schools were shut down again following a spike in cases in their respective neighborhoods.
“[Parents] can’t go to work. Their schedules have to be rearranged. To me, there’s no empathy to our families,” Aviles said.
The problem was once again exacerbated the morning of the rally — parents received a letter from their children’s principals requesting permission by Oct. 16 to test the students for the virus on school grounds. If the parents refuse, their children would be ejected from the classroom and limited to remote learning until they sign over permission.
The parents attending the rally said they would not grant permission unless they could be in the room with their child for the test.
“You’ll have to call me to come and get my children if they’re no longer allowed in the school,” said Aviles to the agreeing crowd. “It’s ridiculous to tell me that they have to be tested without me being there. What is that? ... Don’t put anything in my child’s nose or mouth when I’m not there.”
One parent attending the rally said she had to change her entire work schedule to accommodate the changes, especially after she opted for remote learning for her son.
“I had to change my schedule to overnights,” said Alexandra, choosing to leave out her last name. “I’m a healthcare worker. I understand the healthcare crisis, but this is ridiculous. I don’t approve of this.”
Aviles’ two sons attended the rally to show their dismay at the way their education has been handled thus far: Third-grader Nicholas wrote a giant sign that asked, “What about me?” while his older brother Nathaniel, a sixth-grader, bore a report card marked with a red “F” for the system.
“If you have a question while you’re doing your work and your parents are busy, you got to go to the webex and ask, but the teacher might be busy. But in school and in-person, the teacher is always there [for you]to ask questions,” said Nicholas.
Aviles emphasized that the parents would be fine with any education model, whether it be remote learning or in-person or hybrid, but require consistency.
“They can’t reschedule their lives every time the mayor squeaks. It’s insane. Every other day it’s a change,” she said.