‘We’re angry, we need help’: Bronx BP gives NYC & DOE a ‘failing grade’ for lack of remote learning technology access

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. and other elected officials blast NYC outside of an NYC DOE facility at Fordham Plaza on Monday, Oct 26.
Alex Mitchell

New York City and its Department of Education have flunked in handling the distribution of technological needs for low-income students across the city, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. said in anger on Monday morning.

Standing outside of an NYC DOE facility at Fordham Plaza, Diaz ripped into Mayor Bill de Blasio and the education department for “ineptitude” which he said has left an estimated 500 Bronx families without school-issued Chromebook laptops, tablets, and other necessary learning devices while also criticizing the agencies for being unable to provide broadband or internet for remote students that are without.

Calling it a “concentrated effort of disrespecting our families,” Diaz said nearly half of the calls his office has received on the matter regarded elementary students in grades 1-5 and that Bronx high school students have resorted to using cell phones to complete their due curriculum.

Diaz quoted NYC Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza’s unfulfilled commitment in March that all students would be properly allocated learning devices for remote semesters, saying that there are still “thousands left without.”

The borough president’s commentary comes following a Daily News report that indicated families living in shelters who lack learning access have been reported to ACS for truancy, a move that Diaz called “blaming the victim.”

What’s conceivably worse is that the DOE hasn’t responded to a government inquiry on handling remote learning for students in shelters and transitional housing, according to Matt Cruz, District Manager of the Bronx’s Community Board 10.

He and that board have repeatedly contacted the DOE for recommendations on handling remote learning for the three family shelters which are located in that east Bronx district, but Cruz said there has been no response from the department.

South Bronx city councilman Rafael Salamanca, Jr. said he visited the elementary school CS150 at 920 E. 167th Street last week, where he was given a disturbing report on the amount of students without remote access.

Out of that school’s 300 full-time remote learners, 125 do not have the adequate technology for home learning and the many students in need of bilingual programs are also being left behind as a byproduct from this “unacceptable” lack of DOE transparency and communication, Salamanca said.

Diaz said the city’s “comedy of errors” on the issue would be laughable if the consequences were less dire, also jabbing de Blasio for painting Black Lives Matter murals while ignoring what the borough president described as the educational needs of Black and Brown students in New York.

He also called on NYC to partner with technology giants in efforts to expedite universal remote learning access for families which are now struggling.