November 19, 2020

NYC Schools Closing

New York City is shuttering schools to try to stop the renewed spread of the coronavirus, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday… The nation’s largest public school system will halt in-person learning Thursday, sending more than 1 million children into all-online classes at least through Thanksgiving.” AP News

Many across the political spectrum agree that the decision is short-sighted:

“Schools, especially elementary schools, do not appear to have been major sources of coronavirus transmission, and remote learning is proving to be a catastrophe for many low-income children. Yet America is shutting schools — New York City announced Wednesday that it was closing schools in the nation’s largest school district — even as it allows businesses like restaurants and bars to operate. What are our priorities?…  

“Research from Argentina and Belgium on school strikes indicates that missing school inflicts long-term damage on students (boys seem particularly affected, with higher dropout rates and lower incomes as adults). McKinsey & Company has estimated that in this pandemic, school closures may lead to one million additional high school dropouts. Dropouts live shorter lives, so while the virus kills, so do school closures.”
Nicholas Kristof, New York Times

“The city’s schools have been open for nearly eight weeks, and there have been few, if any, outbreaks in classrooms, according to data collected by the New York Times. Out of 16,438 staff members and students randomly tested in the first week of schools reopening, there were only 28 positive cases, eight of which were students. Looking at these numbers, it is ridiculous that the city would choose to shutter its schools but allow restaurants and gyms to remain open…

“It is difficult to overstate just how disastrous continued school closures such as this one will be for many, many students. Study after study proves that remote learning does not work, and the educational setbacks students face right now will take not just months, but years to overcome. Not to mention the effect this will have on working parents who now have to figure out how to find childcare at the last minute, or, more realistically, take time off of work to make sure their children are taken care of.”
Kaylee McGhee White, Washington Examiner

“Both [teachers and parents have] complained that the mayor’s reopening strategy for hybrid learning was unrealistic, and would have required a teacher hiring spree in order to work. Some children still lack the technology or teacher personnel to learn virtually at home…

“But the execution of the closure was sloppy even by recent standards for how the mayor has handled the pandemic. De Blasio’s daily press conference was delayed for five hours without explanation, leading observers to wonder what was going on. Neither De Blasio or Governor Andrew Cuomo broke the disruptive news to the public — it was left to the news media to report around 2 p.m. that schools chancellor Richard Carranza had told principals to shut their doors effective Thursday.”
Sarah Jones, New York Magazine

“From the beginning, the priority in New York and elsewhere should have been keeping schools open and closing whatever else needed to be closed to limit community spread. Kids are the priority, as the loss they suffer — intellectual development — can’t be made whole by the government after the fact… [But New York] did it backwards. Bars and restaurants are open right now (although in limited capacity) and schools are shutting down. The damage to New York City’s kids will be incalculable, and likely permanent…

“Imagine if you decided in the last few days to send your kid back to school, made plans to return to work, and saw this news float across the wire. Worse, imagine if your kid’s been back in class for weeks and you’ve already returned to work since then. What do you do now? You’ve got less than a day to figure it out.”
Allahpundit, Hot Air

“Over the past month, the New York City school system has randomly tested more than 71,000 students and 42,000 staff, from 3,000-plus schools. Only 189 came back positive. That's a rate of 0.18 percent. As predicted by those who actually follow the science rather than use the word like a get-out-of-logic-free card, schools have not been vectors for spreading COVID-19… The World Health Organization recommends a 5 percent community positivity threshold before closing schools, as does New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Europe is keeping schools open with rates well north of that, citing the still-very-low numbers of kids testing positive…

“Through all of this comedy of errors, the political and educational establishment in New York is still cloaking its decision-making process in the exalted language of equity, inclusion, and combating privilege. There is no gentle way to say this: The people who are about to shutter New York schools should never mouth those words again. It is the comparatively disadvantaged—the poor, the broken-familied, the kids with special needs—who are hammered hardest by the disruptive, logistically caddywhompus, alienating, and educationally piss-poor system of remote learning. My family will adapt. (Hey look, the 5-year-olds are learning French five feet away from me!) But most do not have my options. I do not want to hear one word about my ‘privilege’ again from the people who are consciously making the anti-scientific, politically driven decision to deny basic equitable opportunity for poorer families.”
Matt Welch, Reason

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

“Close the bars. Open the schools. Public health experts have been repeating this same refrain since the summer, when many states and cities reopened businesses like bars, restaurants, and gyms… without a clear plan to reopen school buildings… There are a lot of reasons, from agreements with teachers’ unions to pressure from restaurant and other lobbying groups to parents’ understandable fears of exposing their children — and potentially themselves — to a deadly virus. But one big reason for the seeming disconnect has gone somewhat overlooked: the lack of help from the federal government…

“Money from the federal CARES Act kept many businesses afloat through shutdowns earlier this year, and expanded unemployment benefits and $1,200 stimulus checks kept many laid-off workers out of poverty. But with no more help on the horizon for businesses or ordinary people, shutdowns at the state and local level could have a steep cost, many say, leaving some local leaders hesitant to try them… Closing down schools, meanwhile, doesn’t have the same immediate economic impact, since teachers can still work and get paid while classes are remote… In some ways, policymakers may be trading short-term economic damage for longer-term devastation.”
Anna North, Vox

“What the public interest requires for now is a suspension of indoor dining in areas where the virus is spreading, combined with federal aid to keep restaurants in business… The United States should emulate European countries, where schools have closed last, or not at all. Federal aid for restaurateurs would make it easier for local leaders to justify prohibitions on indoor dining. While that alone wouldn’t totally control the virus or reopen schools, it would help… Children are allowed to eat in restaurants but not learn in classrooms. The public interest urgently requires an inversion of that pattern.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

From the Right

“If New York parents were wondering who runs their child’s school system, we found out yesterday that it isn’t de Blasio, who was so proud of himself for getting schools open, even after delaying twice and implementing an absurd part-time model that had some kids in school only one day a week. And it isn’t Cuomo…

“No, your child’s school is controlled by the teachers union and they decide whether your kid gets an education or not. That’s why there could be no bending on the 3 percent number, a number that never made any sense since it’s 3 percent of tests not population. Any statistic that relies on healthy people getting tested in order to reduce the infection rate is unscientific. This is not about safety, since you’re no safer if 98 healthy people get tested out of every hundred than you are if only 97 do. This is a flex of power. Mayor de Blasio lost. Governor Cuomo lost. And New York City public school children lost most of all.”
Karol Markowicz, New York Post

“New York City public schools close as of today, with no sign of when or even if they’ll reopen this year — or even of what might determine it… The families that will suffer most are those that de Blasio and Carranza insist they care most about: Better-off New Yorkers are more likely to be working from home anyway, and more able to ensure their children learn despite the schools’ dysfunction. Working-class parents and their kids are up the creek without a paddle — again…

“If there’s any silver lining in all this, it’s that parents (and even New Yorkers with no kids in school) are learning some very bitter lessons about how utterly screwed up this system is. Maybe, just maybe, they’ll be able elect some politicians dedicated to replacing the entire public-school system — unions, dysfunctional bureaucracy and all — with one that doesn’t completely melt down in a crisis.”
Editorial Board, New York Post

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