Education

NYC Mayor Adams Now Considering Remote School Option


Topline

Backing off his insistence that children should continue to be taught in-person despite a spike in Covid-19 cases, New York City Mayor Eric Adams said Thursday he “must entertain” implementing a temporary remote option for public schools amid high rates of absenteeism and following agitation by students and teachers for remote learning and better Covid-19 school mitigation measures.

Key Facts

Adams said he’s “willing to sit down and entertain with” the head of the United Federation of Teachers “if there is a way to do a temporary remote option.”

The mayor stressed he would still “continue to push” that students should attend school in-person.

Adams cited the high number of student absences as a reason behind his change of heart—the city’s schools had a 76% attendance rate as of Wednesday—saying he had to “be honest” that a “substantial” number of parents are keeping their children out of school.

The mayor had said Wednesday he believed it would take six months for a remote learning option to be put in place, which would have ruled it out this school year.

His comments come after some  high school students walked out Tuesday, pushing for a remote learning option and better Covid-19 mitigation measures in school.

Some teachers have also protested and filed litigation to push for better Covid-19 safety measures, and local lawmakers penned a letter to the mayor demanding a remote option.

Crucial Quote

“We will find the right way to educate our children in a very safe environment, and if we’re able to put in place a temporarily remote option, we’re welcome to do so with the partnership of my good friend [UFT President] Michael Mulgrew,” Adams told reporters Thursday.

Big Number

132,308. That’s the total number of Covid-19 cases that have been reported among NYC public school students and staff this school year as of Wednesday evening, according to the city’s education department, which is up from 97,938 cases on Friday. 

Key Background

The debate in New York is reflective of a broader nationwide controversy over Covid-19 measures in schools as the omicron variant surges, spurring widespread teacher shortages and school outbreaks. While Adams and other local and state officials have been adamant about keeping schools in person, a growing number of students and teachers have pushed for stronger measures like increased testing and for remote learning if those protocols aren’t in place. Chicago teachers had a five-day standoff with local officials after its teachers union voted in favor of remote learning, before reaching an agreement and going back to school Wednesday, and teachers in  San Francisco; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Windsor, Connecticut, and Contra Costa, California, have also planned protest measures in opposition to their schools’ Covid-19 policies. Students in Seattle became the latest to threaten a protest over their schools’ Covid-19 measures, the Seattle Times reported Thursday, following students in other places like Michigan and Oakland, California. The Biden administration announced Wednesday it will distribute 10 million tests to schools a month in an attempt to keep schools open and address concerns.

Further Reading

White House Promises Millions Of Free Covid Tests To Schools — As Students, Teachers Protest (Forbes)

New York City high school students stage walkout, citing inadequate Covid measures (Washington Post)

“We Cannot Feed Into The Hysteria”: Adams Doubles Down On Keeping Schools Open Amid Omicron (Gothamist)

Adams: No Remote Learning Option in NYC Schools For 6 Months (Yahoo News)

We Talked to the NYC Student Whose Post About High School Life Under Omicron Went Viral (Slate)

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