While every other state and city in the Northeast has shutdown and moved to online education, Mayor DeBlasio hasn’t. He’s keeping the schools open.
There are 400 cases of the virus in New York City.
He said that if he closed schools, most likely students wouldn’t get any education until the fall. With its high number of low income students, there is little chance that they can maintain the pretense of an education that is happening here in the suburbs.
He’s also said that schools are the main place where students are fed every day. Without the school cafeteria, kids are going to go hungry. They may be left alone, because their parents don’t have the type of jobs that transition to home.
Closing the schools will, no doubt, lead to MASSIVE pain among low income families. Pain that you can’t even imagine.
But not closing them will lead to other pain, but all those kids and school personnel will be trading germs. People will get sick. They’ll bring those germs home and infect their grandparents.
Imagine a two-bedroom apartment in Washington Heights with windows that face the dark courtyard behind the building. Imagine an entire extended family living there. Breathing on each other. Going out to school and jobs. They will all get sick very soon.
The virus is going to do MASSIVE damage in those poor communities. There’s not much we can do now, but we will have to rethink everything when it passes.
17 thoughts on “The Plague is Here, Part Ten — Germs Don’t Care About Social Inequality, So We Should. Later.”
My daughter is student teaching in Philadelphia. I was very worried yesterday they wouldn’t make the right decision. Very thankful the mayor—and soon after the governor—came around.
Just told my 18 year old the boyfriend can’t come over for the next two weeks, then we’ll reevaluate. She knows it’s probably months.
Laura wrote, “While every other state and city in the Northeast has shutdown and moved to online education, Mayor DeBlasio hasn’t. He’s keeping the schools open.”
Are they suspending attendance requirements? That’s literally the least they can do right now.
This is going to be the biggest natural experiment of the century.
“He said that if he closed schools, most likely students wouldn’t get any education until the fall.”
I bet that if they took maybe 3 weeks to gear up, they could come up with something rudimentary. (For example, get each free lunch eligible kid a Kindle Fire loaded up with children’s books and/or a tablet loaded with educational games and videos. Or, hey, create a NYC DOE educational cable channel or take over PBS and run appropriate educational programming 7AM-5PM–early hours for the little kids, big kid stuff in the later hours.) And/or partner with some sort of boxed kids’ activity company to send a package every few weeks.
(That company provides packs of 10 leveled readers for $25–little kids could be sent one set a week.) Have teachers check in by phone or text weekly–little kids could read aloud over the phone. There’s only 3 months of school left. Even doing nothing educationally, it’s not that big a deal in elementary school, especially considering that this is a once in a century event and the end of the year tends to be a mess anyway and/or full of fun, time-consuming events and field trips. Also, the 2020-2021 school year can be started a month early and also ended a month later if we have the all clear by then. It’s harder with high schoolers, of course…
“He’s also said that schools are the main place where students are fed every day. Without the school cafeteria, kids are going to go hungry.”
That can be worked around.
“They may be left alone, because their parents don’t have the type of jobs that transition to home.”
This is much more convincing–but as Karol Markowicz pointed out, there are NYC schools with very low poverty rates that ought to be closed.
“Imagine a two-bedroom apartment in Washington Heights with windows that face the dark courtyard behind the building. Imagine an entire extended family living there. Breathing on each other. Going out to school and jobs. They will all get sick very soon.”
There’s also that–poorer families are presumably more vulnerable to the virus, once exposed to it, are very likely to be service workers in public-facing positions. Also, heavy use of public transportation in NYC makes NYCers especially vulnerable to the presence of infected individuals. NYC has got to be the most vulnerable city in the country.
The children aren’t going to spend all day every day cooped up in a two room apartment. They are going to go outside and play with their friends. It’s better to keep them in school, as the Singaporean government has done, where their health and sanitation can be monitored. I’m not a big DeBlasio fan, but he is totally right on this. Also, remember that the NYC schools are not exactly filled with eager strivers. Left on their own, most of them won’t crack a book, even if you give them a kindle.
y81 said “as the Singaporean government has done”
Does it make sense for NYC to follow Singapore with regard to keeping schools open in the absence of other Singaporean precautions?
“Does it make sense to follow the Singaporean government . . . .”–More sense than believing that you can give NYC students a bunch of kindles and they will study on their own. Let’s be honest–unwoke though it be–about the caliber of students we are talking about. These aren’t Laura’s children: people like her flee the city as soon as their children reach school age. And they aren’t mine: we used to have what we called “Palm Beach Math Club” every spring, but we sent our daughter to private school. NYC students are described here: https://quillette.com/2019/02/10/public-educations-dirty-secret/
“caliber of students” implies something a bout the students, rather than their family resources, environment, past teaching, . . . .
And, in Amy’s question, the question is whether in the absence of Singapore style testing, monitoring, and contact tracing, allowing student to be a source of spread is a luxury we can’t afford, even at the expense of their education.
bj said, “And, in Amy’s question, the question is whether in the absence of Singapore style testing, monitoring, and contact tracing, allowing student to be a source of spread is a luxury we can’t afford, even at the expense of their education.”
Yeah. I’m open to the kids-will-be-left-home-alone/some-have-no-place-to-go argument, but given what the stakes are (the potential collapse of NYC healthcare), I’m pretty happy sacrificing 2 months of classroom education.
An argument I’ve seen online is that school closures are a when, not if, so if kids are going to wind up at home anyway, it’s a good idea that they go into the home setting (perhaps under the supervision of older, medically fragile family) sooner and with fewer germs.
Washington State closed all its schools through April 24th yesterday. They worried significantly about the care of the children, but decided to close the schools in the end. I think staffing concerns were significant, when they finally made the decision. And, the school closures come in the context of closing everything (museums, for example).
Our guidance is going out side and playing with small groups of friends is OK, necessary for mental health, and a reasonable risk to take. The suggestion is to take walks & hikes.
It’s a nice day and the whole neighborhood is walking dogs. If coronavirus is transmissible from dog’s butt to dog’s nose, we’re all doomed.
“And, the school closures come in the context of closing everything (museums, for example).”
We’ve just had closure announcements for city public libraries, the children’s museum and the local zoo, right on the heels of the announcement of a two-week city school closure.
It makes sense (especially the children’s museum closure–it’s like an indoor microbe petting zoo), but it’s all happening really fast.
I expect this isn’t too far from the truth.
I am 100% with you on this – extreme social distancing going on. My husband is not quite on board, but like Jonah, he does not have an option in this house – 😉
We have a doctor in my circle of college friends, and she is completely down playing the threat in our group texts – keeps bringing up the flu, saying the hospitals (she works at one) can handle it, etc.. It is driving the two of us in the NYC/Boston areas nuts. I don’t understand how she doesn’t get it. Ultimately, I hope I am wrong and she is right, but I am so scared that she is not.
I may need to make a trip to the liquor store.
Added this one to my recipes :-).
Your link goes to a popular youtube newsclip from 2017.
Not for me.
I am sympathetic to De Blasio’s concern about child care and lost education (although lengthening the school year for the next 2 years could help). In my neighborhood, the teens are helping watch the little ones. But, for most kids who get FRP lunch, there will be a lot of wiggle room. A high proportion of those kids’ parents can actually come up with food, and especially if they are still working. The school is a convenient way to fill the gap for those who truly need it, but it’s not the only way. There are options that don’t involve crowding all the kids into small rooms all day. In our town, donations to the food pantry are now zooming up. Volunteer services are delivering food to homes and apartments. Etc.
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