part 1 Issues of reopening during Covid

Sunday, July 12, 2020 12:04:00 PM

Task Force members, Edweek, IncludeNYC, AQENY, MORE-UFT

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Our basic position is that the decisions for school and school busing safety can't be made by entities who do not experience the consequences firsthand. In terms of busing, that includes at a minimum, established representatives of: families of school bus riders, school bus workers, and the disability community.  (We have said this to various reporters, see upcoming blog entry 'part 2...') Of course there are ripple effects on educators, school aides, crossing guards, bus companies, and mass transit riders & workers too. Below are some readings we came across that relate to our concerns. 

1. The State Ed Department lists various people who meet those qualifications for their NYC & Long Island task force but they have not met as of July 10.

2. ED WEEK article Getting Students With Disabilities Back To Class, dated 7/8, last paragraph says this about NYC summer school and related services:
Roughly 40,000 children in the district are eligible for year-round special education services. Students will not return to class this summer, but the district will open sites across the city to resume one-on-one speech, physical, and occupational therapy services for students with disabilities. But it will not be busing students. Instead, the district will offer public transportation passes or travel reimbursement costs for families to get students to appointments.
Needless to say we disagree with dumping kids onto mass transit where the (heroic) workers are not trained for meeting their needs, and which also increases transit crowding, and therefore Covid risk. 

3. Recent Include NYC newsletter summarized the summer and fall plans.  Excerpt and link below. 

Students with disabilities:

  • In-person services will be offered to students with IEPs who opt to receive them to the greatest extent possible.
  • No information on school busing has been released as of now.
  • Alternative staggering schedules may be available for District 75 programs due to smaller classes.

4. NYS Alliance for Quality Education released a 'roadmap' on June 10 which says this about busing:
12. All bus drivers and lunch aids must receive training in helping address students’ needs. As students return to the school building, everyone must have the ability to recognize the signs of trauma, and at the very least, not add to them, but rather help heal. 
13. The state must consider prioritizing transportation for students who have no alternative for the interim, particularly . Especially transportation for homeless students and students with unstable housing, and must do so in a safe way. 
5. MORE (a caucus within NYC educator's union United Federation of Teachers) published a statement on July 10, with a fair amount of input from parent activists, busing is discussed as follows: Busing, as well, has not yet been addressed, and is an area of significant concern, particularly for our students with disabilities. In recent years the city has seen record numbers of complaints about its busing system, with children frequently stuck on buses for hours at a time. How will the DOE use an already-broken system to efficiently and safely transport students? . 
[In addition we notice many teacher and parent groups around the country expressing similar common sense concerns about the dangers of a hasty reopening to public health. Demanding IMPROVED remote learning, supporting Strikes and boycotts might be what it takes to save lives] 

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