YONKERS, NY — August 23, 2020 — The day we become parents, we become natural advocates. We must rely on our instincts to do what’s best for our child and make decisions both great and small, without training. Today we are faced with a decision that speaks to our children’s education, health, and well-being. What once was an exciting annual milestone – the first day of school – has now become a daunting and stressful event. We ask ourselves: Do we send our child to school? Will they be safe? What happens if they get sick? We are forced to weigh the risks and benefits against our child’s individual wants and needs.
As we grapple with the decision to commit to a hybrid model of learning or 100% remote learning, we are watching politics play a large role in our children’s education. We have the Federal Government refusing to issue bailouts to the State of New York, almost guaranteeing cuts in education, but at the same time threatening to pull funds if schools do not open. We have mandates issued by the State of New York that need to be implemented in every school district, without additional funding. Finally, we have the local government, that refuses to properly fund the schools, while our superintendent continuously warns that he doesn’t have funding to pay for these state mandated requirements.
While there’s a push to reopen our schools on September 8th, there is a possibility that our schools will not be ready by that date. Teachers are concerned for their safety, parents are worried for their children, and everyone is trying to figure out how to best handle this unprecedented situation. So, we ask this simple question…are our children’s needs being properly addressed? The answer should be a resounding “Yes”, but it is not. We should be looking back at our experience with distance learning and recognize that it is our children who suffered while the pandemic was raging outside. Many children regressed educationally, and socially while others faced mental health issues or the loss of a family member due to COVID-19.
One parent reported that her child cried every day wondering why she couldn’t see her friends and was found to be chewing glue sticks in her room, out of sheer stress. Another child refused to leave his home for weeks due to anxiety. Another parent of a child with special needs, reported her child was simply assigned worksheets with no feedback provided on the work handed in. Another parent reported that her special needs son became distracted and uninterested in learning online. He lacked the concentration needed to keep him motivated.
Reports of inconsistent teaching were far and wide throughout Yonkers. A bargaining agreement with the YFT allowed teachers to use whatever platform they were comfortable with but did not mandate that they provide synchronous teaching. In fact, the agreement was clear that it was “voluntary on the part of the individual teacher.” They were told they could provide virtual instruction or simply e-mail assignments, and this resulted in mass confusion. Platforms varied from school to school and even class to class. While some took advantage and did very little, most were struggling with a platform they were not used to using. Many teachers were mis-informed that that if they utilized Zoom or YouTube, it could be hacked and the teachers (not the district) could be held personally liable so they refrained. Who suffered? The children.
Parents of children needing services like speech therapy faced a lack of support since many district speech teachers refused to provide audiovisual therapy, citing to the agreement that indicated it was voluntary. Many simply sent assignments with instructions to the parents as to how to provide speech therapy to the child. Who suffered? The child in need of those services.
These experiences were reflected in a survey taken by YCPTA, where over 4,000 parents responded. 40(+) percent want to send their children to school, while 40+ want to keep them home. The balance chose hybrid learning. We know that a 100% reopening is not an option in Yonkers as it cannot be done safely. Hybrid learning, for in school instruction, is the safest option if you wish to send your child to school. However, one cannot ignore the fact while a good percentage are expected to opt for 100% remote instruction, the majority – whether it be full-time or hybrid – want to send their children to school. With school scheduled to re-open in a few weeks, parents are demanding that their children’s needs be addressed, first and foremost. Parents want all bargaining units to work together with the District, to cooperate and do everything in their power to come to an agreement. Put our children first. Parents, regardless of what method of learning is chosen, want their children to be educated with continuity, and consistent interaction with their child in the delivery of a high quality education plan.
In addition, parents demand that the local, state, and federal government do everything in their power to provide funding. They do not want to see finger pointing, they do not want to hear excuses, or an explanation while their child is going to be without. Parents expect cooperation and a united front, with action! Anything less is not acceptable and only hurts our children’s education and the Yonkers community.
Yonkers Council of PTA/PTSAs Advocacy Chair Carmen Goldstein,
Yonkers Council of PTA/PTSAs President Roberto Rijos,
Yonkers Council of PTA/PTSAs Past President Sally Pinto
Senator Andrea Stewart Cousins, New York State
Senator Shelley B. Mayer, New York State
Assembly Member J. Gary Pretlow, New York State
Assembly Member Nader J. Sayegh, New York State
Mayor Mike Spano, City of Yonkers
Mike Khader, President, Yonkers City Council
Corazon Pineda Isaac, Majority Leader, Yonkers City Council
Michael Breen, Minority Leader, Yonkers City Council
Shanae V. Williams, Yonkers City Council
Tasha Diaz, Yonkers City Council
John Rubbo, Yonkers City Council
Anthony J. Merante, Yonkers City Council
Dr. Edwin M. Quezada, Superintendent of Schools
Rev. Steve Lopez, President, Board of Education Trustees
Trustees of the Board of Education
Jane Wermuth, President, Yonkers Council of Administrators
Samantha Rosado-Ciriello, President, Yonkers Federation of Teachers
Dulani Turner, President, CSEA 9169