Op-Ed | Covid Recovery Begins with Opening our Schools, 100%.

Leslie Boghosian Murphy
Photo Courtesy of Murphy’s Facebook Account

leslie Our economy is sputtering into recovery from the pandemic but it’s going to be a painstaking resuscitation until schools are 100% open. That means five days a week for in-person learning and not a hybrid mix of 2 days one week and 3 days the next, with virtual learning as a supplement in between.

While NYC is buzzing from the recent loosening of Covid-19 restrictions and reopening announcements, we still have yet to hear anything from the Department of Education about a full reopening during this current school year. That means the city is surging forward with preparations for a July 1 reopening, yet will do so without prioritizing the 1.1 million students in our school system.

Science and research have shown that our children are relatively safe from contracting the virus when attending school–as long as they follow certain protocols. In other words, in-person learning is low risk. Our teachers were also given vaccine priority earlier this year, so that hurdle is behind us as well.

Principals and school administrators need support from the Department of Education, not to be put through hoops with constantly changing mandates and lack of provisions. There must be a well-defined plan that addresses proper staffing and resources to make the “new normal” work in our classrooms. It is time to open the doors completely, and not wait until September to get back on track. How can a parent physically return to work when they are juggling childcare requirements that constantly change?  And let’s be honest – that burden on families is primarily falling on mothers.

The effects of the pandemic on women in the workplace have been staggering. Exactly 100 years after finally securing the right to vote, women’s participation in the workforce was still only sitting at 58% last year, and that was before the city shut down in March. The pandemic has rolled us back to workforce numbers we haven’t seen since the late 80’s, therefore losing decades of progress in just one year.

Recent statistics show that nearly three million female workers left the workforce in the last year, with two million still unreturned. Last September when there was no classroom to go back to, over 850,000 women left the workforce–four times more than men. This was not a choice. Women were forced to leave the workforce to stay with kids who were now learning from home or to take care of an elderly relative most vulnerable to COVID. Our recovery truly depends on women.

Because the United States does not have a comprehensive childcare program similar to that of other developed countries and because mothers often end up being the primary caregivers due to antiquated wage disparity, the pandemic was the perfect storm for working women. We need transformational change from top to bottom. OUR ECONOMY DEPENDS ON IT.

With a majority of women of color acting as the primary breadwinner in the household, Latina and black women are disproportionately affected by the weight of this pandemic. Those are racial inequities that we cannot ignore. While I am pleased to see that President Biden’s recently announced American Families Act looks to take an inclusive approach to childcare in the U.S., we still have a steep climb ahead. In a recent discussion with Senator Chuck Schumer, I requested that any federal infrastructure relief plan consider the loss of women in the workforce and connected child care deficiencies. These must be adequately appropriated for in order to realize a path to a healthy workforce.   

Let’s get schools fully reopened in the fall. Our children depend on it; our mothers depend on it and our economy depends on it. From there, our city can truly go full speed ahead. 

I am ready to take charge of our district’s COVID recovery. Message me at [email protected] if you have ideas to share. I’m always listening.


Leslie Boghosian Murphy is running for New York City Council District 3

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