Report: 36% of New York City families worried about sending children back into classrooms this fall

School classroom with blackboard
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A new study conducted by City Councilman Brad Lander and City Council candidate Justin Krebs found over a quarter of New York City public school families with children enrolled in fully remote learning are “unsure” about sending their children back into physical classrooms this fall or will “most likely” not send them back into schools. 

Over 100 families with at least one child enrolled in fully remote learning across the five boroughs participated in the study, released last week, which was conducted via phone over four days by members of the candidate’s campaigns. Although the number of survey participants is small, the report provides insight on how some public school families feel about the possibility of returning to classrooms this fall. 

The purpose of the survey — according to Krebs and Lander, who’s running for city comptroller — was to find out why families chose to keep their children in fully remote classes and what it would take for them to come back into classrooms this upcoming school year, according to a statement from the current and hopefully elected officials. 

Most of the families that took part in the survey, 64%, said they were “very” or “somewhat” likely to send their children back to in-person classes this fall. A little over 20% of families said they were “still uncertain” about their plans while 15% said they were “very or somewhat unlikely” to send their children back into school buildings.

Out of the 111 families that participated, 52% said nobody from the Department of Education had reached out in regard to their child’s return to in-person classes next year. 

Families reported the health and safety measures that gave them the most confidence about sending children back into schools were if students and family members were vaccinated, students and teachers were still required to wear masks and maintain social distance, and if schools maintained smaller class sizes, according to the survey. 

The bulk of participating families told survey takers they are unhappy with remote learning and want their children to go back to in-person classes but that “they just want to know it’ll be safe,” according to release.

There remains just over a month left in the current school year, but officials have been reticent about what next year will look like for students. Mayor Bill de Blasio has said the City working to bring back every child to school for in-person classes for five days a week.

But many questions about logistics remain unanswered such as distancing requirements, how many teachers will instruct their classes in-person or if there will be a fully remote option available for students. Krebs, who is running to represent Brooklyn’s 39th City Council district and is a father of three in public schools, worries that the city is still operating too much on a crisis mentality. If the mayor does not publicly announce a central vision for school reopenings “it will lead to what we had last summer which was chaos and rumors and second-guessing,” he told amNewYork Metro. 

“The science and data show our schools are safe and we are planning for every child to be back in school full-time, five days a week in the fall,” said DOE spokesperson Danielle Filson.

Filson added Chancellor Porter is now taking part in five borough-wide “family engagement forums to answer questions and make sure everyone feels comfortable and excited for what will be a welcoming, engaging and pivotal school year.”

Filson added the DOE has for months been hosting weekly “Reopening Community Roundtable meetings with internal and external stakeholders who advise and partner with us on the planning and implementation for fall reopening. Schools have also been doing outreach, and we will be working with them over the coming weeks and months in supporting our families as we prepare for full reopening in the fall.”

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