Melida Perez-Maldonado 0

We Demand Remote Learning Until It Is Safe

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  • To Whom It May Concern,

After careful consideration, we, the undersigned staff members of Marble Hill High School for International Studies, 10x477, believe that remote learning is the safest and best option for our school community. Although we requested the option to plan a fully remote semester, the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) advised us that we would have to choose a “hybrid” blended learning model that included in-person instruction. It is unfathomable that the NYCDOE, in weighing the pros and cons of all available options, truly believes any amount of in-person instruction does not pose a significant public health threat to students and teachers. In response, we respectfully request an exception to this model and propose our school be allowed to carry out 100% remote instruction.

The NYCDOE has not provided adequate guidance or oversight on measures that would ensure a safe return to schools. There are still many concerns that have not yet been resolved by DOE leadership, specifically:

  • no adequate system of testing and contact tracing has been developed, and there is no mandatory, randomized testing of students and staff;
  • the level of protection provided by the PPE to be provided by the NYCDOE, which should include N95 masks or equivalent for all staff, has not been assured, and no specific information about how the NYCDOE intends to ensure a consistent supply chain has been provided;
  • custodial staff throughout the city has expressed concerns that they cannot perform appropriate deep cleaning protocols in classrooms, hallways, bathrooms, and other spaces in the time allotted, nor can they clean the high-touch surfaces throughout the day, and no additional staff has been hired to assist;
  • the Kennedy Campus is a scanning school, and no building entry and exit protocols for scanning schools have been provided, nor has information on how UFT-represented staff are supposed to enforce social distancing in a large, scanning school like the Kennedy Campus;
  • no additional budget for classroom furniture that promotes social distancing, like single desks, has been allocated to Marble Hill, and existing classroom furniture is not appropriate for promoting social distancing;
  • there are no clear planning protocols to minimize staff contact with different pods of students appropriate to high school teaching and little information about how we can minimize contact between different groups of students outside of class or in between class changes;
  • there is no public policy on whether or not staff will be required to use Cumulative Absent Reserve (CAR) days when unable to self-certify to their health or the health of their families at the beginning of school, nor is information available about what will happen to staff who are negative in CAR days and cannot borrow additional days;
  • at present, the medical costs due to medical clearance visits for staff who cannot self-certify appear to be borne by staff themselves;
  • there have been no updates to the disciplinary code or Chancellor’s Regulations regarding the ladder of consequences for social distancing violations for students;
  • no details have been shared regarding the requirements for the curriculum to be shared between remote and in-person teachers, and there has been no guidance about teacher license requirements when staffing classes for students with disabilities in integrated co-teaching classes and/or self-contained classes;
  • questions remain about how hybrid teachers will conduct in-person and distance classes simultaneously;
  • no additional, specific information about childcare for teachers whose own children are learning remotely has been provided, although this was a staff question posed during the Chancellor’s Townhall on 8/19/20;
  • no information on how English New Language learner services provided by a push-in teacher will be socially distanced;
  • it has not been confirmed that current internet bandwidth for the JFK campus is sufficient;
  • no guidance has been provided about who will cover in-person classes for teachers who are absent when they must quarantine;
  • significant safety and logistical concerns exist for instruction during student lunch periods;
  • staff are deeply concerned that 22,000 City workers will be laid off, and that the Chancellor has threatened to layoff 9,000+ teachers, which impacts our ability to plan adequate and consistent instruction for students;
  • and numerous others.

Our principal, Kirsten Larson, has worked diligently to find answers to our questions and guide us to create a workable reopening plan, including, three virtual meetings with a school reopening team. In spite of our best efforts to work together, our collaboration has failed to produce a safe, workable plan for blended learning this fall. We are significantly hindered by the seeming logistical impossibility of teaching ALL our students when they will be fractured into remote and blended learning cohorts and the unanswered questions about health and safety protocols.

Over 50% of our students requested remote learning, and more are doing so with each passing day. We continue to believe that pursuing 100% remote learning this fall is the best option for our students academically, socially, and emotionally. As more Student Preference Survey results come in, this percentage is only increasing. Generously speaking, we will only be delivering a blended learning curriculum to about 30% of our students. How can our administrators program for this? How can teachers divide their already limited planning periods to teach a majority of our student population remotely? It just won't work. Both blended and remote learners will suffer in the quality of their education this year.

In our consultations with parents, we have heard numerous concerns which the NYCDOE has not addressed, and have found deep support for 100% remote learning reopening among parents. High school students transmit the virus, and we already know from the outbreak in our building in March that it can, and will do lasting damage in our school community if our building is open. We do not believe that our voices, as professional educators who have devoted our lives to teaching our students, have been appropriately weighted in the reopening discussion. Rather, we believe that we and the parents we represent are being silenced in a one-size-fits all reopening plan.

We demand remote learning until it is safe because it is the only reasonable option available to us; even Mayor DeBlasio and Chancellor Carranza have agreed that school buildings are unsafe for students, twice delaying the start of in person learning. Yet, on October 1st, thousands of staff members across NYC are being required to work in person in unsafe buildings. We therefore request that you approve our school to plan a 100% remote return to school for the 2020-21 school year.


The Marble Hill School for International Studies Community

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