Bichotte, Louis Update Community About Schools Reopening

City Councilwoman Farah Louis (1)

Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte (Flatbush, East Flatbush, Midwood and Ditmas Park) and Councilmember Farah N. Louis (Flatbush, East Flatbush, Midwood, Marine Park, Flatlands, Kensington) hosted a conference call yesterday to update the community on the current state of education with members of the public on Monday, August 10.

The conference call came as Governor Andrew Cuomo has finally okayed schools to reopen statewide, with a cautious 3 percent infection rate metric as their guideline for closures moving forward, said the Department of Education (DOE). 

Also in the conversation were panelists DOE Deputy Chancellor Adrienne Austin and Brooklyn District 22 Superintendent Julianna Bove. They said that about 25 percent of students will be remote and about 75 percent signed up for blended learning according to preference surveys. Austin announced the tentative date of September 10 as the return date they are aiming for as the first day of school.

Rodneyse Bichotte
Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte
Council Member Farah Louis
Council Member Farah Louis

“Our community in Brooklyn was hit harder, almost more than any other in the nation,” said Bichotte. “Those that are still employed are struggling to figure out how to work and teach their children on an entirely remote frontier. School is starting in less than a month and parents are still waiting for answers.” 

“I know for the first several months of COVID-19 everything was unpredictable, completely scary for our scholars, our teachers, and staff. And, with less than a month before schools reopen we need a comprehensive plan that integrates input from parents, students, teachers, and labor unions. Through these conversations, which will be ongoing, we can collectively shape children’s futures,” said Louis. 

Here are some of the main crowdsourced questions and topics raised in the hour-long meeting:

“What were the health and safety protocols announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Richard Carranza?”

Austin: If the positive virus rate is under 3 percent citywide then we’ll be able to open. If at any time it goes over 3 percent, we will not be opening. If it goes over 3 percent after reopening, after the fall, we will be closing. 

We will be working very closely with [Department of Health and Mental Hygiene] DOHMH for test and trace, and we will be relying on them to give us information around positive results. If a school receives a notification that there is one confirmed case of COVID-19 in the school, we will close the infected class and teacher for 14 days. If we have two cases that are positive in a school within a seven-week period, we will close the entire school for at least a 24 hour period.  

“What will the curriculum look like for the academic year?”

Bove: Regardless of your choice, whether your child will be learning blended or remotely. The standards are the standards of New York State. I want to tell you learning and synchronous and asynchronous (live and remote) instruction will go on each of the five days. In District 22 we have about 30 percent choosing remote learning. 

Principals have submitted their plans or will be submitting them by Friday, and you’ll hear about your child’s exact schedule. Our first job will be that students feel comfortable, integrating academics and social/emotional learning into our curriculum. The common standards will be followed in ELA, Math, Science, and Social Studies, along with the physical education, the arts, and music etc.  

“What efforts will school make for parents who aren’t native English speakers?”

Bove: What the DOE has done has set a standard to ensure the interpretation of all available languages. We have provided google tutorials in various languages for parents, and made an available guide of everything sent out from the DOE in translated versions. We also help parents navigate digital tools like Microsoft translator. We have continued family engagement to deliver materials and information in preferred languages.

“How often will schools be sanitized and will there be nurses for our students?”

Bove: That’s a promise the Mayor and Chancellor has made. Every campus will have a nurse, and in terms of cleaning, I refer to my director of facilities and he assured me custodial staff will have a modified schedule to maximize efficiency and to meet daily disinfections. Especially, key points, the high leverage points, the handle rails, the front food knobs, the classroom door knobs, all such places will be disinfected daily.

Since there’s no eating in the cafeteria per se that time would’ve been spent cleaning the cafeteria will be spent cleaning the classrooms to a greater extent. The bathrooms will be clean and remain stock with hand soap and paper towels, sanitizing liquid, and they’re also going to keep a bathroom log. 

All students and staff will be asked to wear a mask and there will be extra masks on site. There are plans for instructional lunch periods if you will.

Austin: We purchased high tech industrial cleaners that should cut down on the labor of cleaning.

“Are you going school by school to do assessments of the air filtration system?”

Bove: They were upgrading the filters in classrooms and some schools were fortunate enough to get HVAC. Some were on a waiting list.

Austin: We are following an indoor air guidance that was issued by CDC. THey are going school by school and doing assessments and upgrades there. They’re also trying to open the windows in every school building where that’s possible. One of the promises our Chancellor has made that if we can’t make sure there’s adequate air ventilation, then we won’t open. 

“What’s the childcare plan to address parents that need to work?” 

Austin: The Mayor had announced 100,000 seats to start a little over a month ago. The city is working with [NY DCD] to contract for that. The DOE isn’t directly managing that process. 

“Is there a plan for school bus transportation in the fall?”

Austin: We are still working through school bus transportation. Obviously we are prioritizing our students with disabilities, and we are in a difficult and challenging position as we don’t have the contracts in place we would normally have at this time. Our operation team and office is working really hard for some busing contracts in place. We have already started to work through a social distancing plan for buses. 

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