Parents upset after Queens principal’s letter encourages them to keep children remote

School classroom with blackboard
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Some New York City public school parents are outraged over a letter sent to Bayside High School families stating they made a “good decision” by choosing to enroll their children in remote learning and to “please stay with it.” 

The letter, written by Principal Michael Athy, was shared online on March 25 and quickly garnered criticism from parents in regard to the low number of students choosing to enroll in blended learning, the city’s hybrid model which allows students to take classes remotely and in-person in classrooms. 

Only about a quarter of the city’s 1.1 million public school students were enrolled in blended learning last fall, according to Department of Education data — a significant drop from de Blasio’s predicted number of 700,000. 

The letter was allegedly distributed prior to the city opening an “opt-in” window for blended learning and in light of high schools reopening for in-person learning four months after Mayor de Blasio second system-wide school shut down in November of last year. 

In the letter, Athy tells parents that students enrolled in blended learning last fall could return to the high school once it reopened to sit and receive assistance with their online classes instead of receiving live instruction. 

Athy also listed answers to recently asked questions concerning student safety inside the building and stating that school officials could not guarantee children would not contract the virus or that all would be able to keep their masks on while in classrooms. 

Some interpreted the letter as an attempt to discourage parents from enrolling their children in blended learning therefore allowing them to return to classrooms amid school staffing shortages caused by blended and over a quarter of DOE teachers having received a year-long medical exemption from teaching in school buildings. 

Staffing shortages at some high schools have forced some students to spend their “in-person” in a classrooms, monitored by a school aides, and sit for online classes. Some public school parents told amNewYork Metro their children were sent back into school buildings to sit in front of a laptop and then be told to go home after just under three hours. 

“New York City schools are safe, and we already have more than 25,000 new students who have opted in to in-person learning because they want to return to classrooms, said DOE spokesperson Danielle Filson. “This letter is inaccurate and does not reflect our mission to maximize in-person learning for our students.”

The DOE is taking “appropriate follow-up action” with the Bayside High School principal although it is unclear what that action is. 

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