On the eve of New York City’s public elementary schools reopening, members of the #KeepNYCSchoolsOpen movement rallied in the shadow of City Hall on Dec. 6 to demand that the doors be reopened at the cities’ middle schools and high schools.
Made up of parents, students, and some teachers, over 40 demonstrators crowded City Hall Park on a frigid Sunday afternoon to express their concerns to the Mayor. The public address focused on de Blasio’s decision to solely open elementary schools on Dec. 7; all public school buildings were closed on Nov. 19, as the city’s COVID-19 7-day positivity rate exceeded 3% for the first time in months, with classes shifted to online instruction.
“We are here because almost four weeks ago, over 300,000 New York City students were taking some sort of hybrid education in-schools throughout New York City. We waited and we watched as we inched closer to the 3% arbitrary number that was said to have schools closed,” said Carly Maready, one of the organizers of the event, sharing her dismay with the way in which the mayor handled the recent school closures through an obtuse tweet.
About 150,000 students who opted for in-person learning are left in limbo while waiting for the mayor to share a plan for middle and high school students.
Angered by the mayor’s “lack of leadership,” individuals of all ages touted signs reading, “Technology is not a teacher,” “#OpenSchools, We are not spreaders, K-12,” “All I want for X-Mas is for Schools to be open,” and “We cannot abandon our teens.” This was accompanied by chants of “Reopen our schools!”
Protesters took turns sharing their feelings on the temporary termination of in-person learning for grades 6-12, with even students airing their grievances.
“For the first few weeks it was like one long snow day. Now, nine months later I wake up at 9:56 for my 10am class,” said Liza, a middle schooler. “Most days I only have three classes, 45 minutes each. On the days we used to go into school, I now have a single class period. Our teachers are rightly known as some of the best in the city, and they are doing everything they can to keep our classes interesting and hold us together, but remote classes are just quicker to get boring. There is no incentive to pay attention.”
Many of the children shared that they miss the social interactions, the team art projects, and the simple act of eating lunch together. Now, much of their days consist of sitting in front of a computer screen while participating in class and homework assignments on an endless loop.
Nation-wide, similar rallies are being held to keep schools open during the pandemic since some parents and educators feel that students are being left behind in their studies. In New York City alone, there are about 145,000 students who have chosen in-person learning.
Some feel that schools are operating safely and have a low transmission rate, and yet the mayor has not shared a plan for reopening for grades 6-12. The rally pushes for the Mayor’s decision to be inline with medical and public health experts.