Following random school closings in the area due to a few positive coronavirus cases, Councilman Eric Ulrich is asking the Department of Education (DOE) to lighten up on shutdowns.
Students were able to return to middle schools last month and Monday, March 22 was supposed to be the day high school students could return to school but for several local schools, those returns are delayed, and other students have returned back to remote due to the school buildings being forced to close due to students or teachers testing positive for coronavirus, sometimes for just two cases.
As we go to press, school buildings on the peninsula that are completely closed include I.S. 323 (Scholars’ Academy), the entire Beach Channel Educational Campus (including Channel View School for Research) and P.S. 43 and P.S. 197 in Rockaway. Other schools have had to close certain classrooms including P.S. 47 (currently in the old Stella Maris), The Waterside School, P.S. 233Q, Village Academy and P.S. 256Q. The closures have left parents and students looking for some normalcy, frustrated to say the least.
Councilman Ulrich says it’s time for the DOE to change its protocols for Covid-19 closures. In a recent letter penned to Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter, the Councilman details the many challenges parents in his district are currently facing as a result of the ongoing closures.
"For more than a year now, students have had their entire academic lives upended by the pandemic. Distance learning simply does not provide the same quality of education and necessary social interaction for our students," Councilman Eric Ulrich wrote. "Additionally, as parents and guardians have been returning to work, finding childcare during the school hours has become a massive burden – and oftentimes, a costly one."
"During a time of such economic uncertainty, we cannot afford to put parents in a position where they must choose between putting food on the table and caring for their child during school hours," he added.
In his letter, Ulrich notes that his office has been inundated with complaints from constituents.
"In recent months, schools in my district have been opened and closed so many times that hundreds of parents have contacted my office to complain," he wrote "In some cases, entire buildings were closed on account of just two positive cases."
Ulrich explains that no other facility or business has such a strict standards for operating, urging DOE to ease up on the protocols.
"While we can all agree that the safety of our children and DOE staff is the highest of priorities – no other businesses, offices, or facilities have such strict guidelines for closures," Ulrich added. "In order to begin returning to normalcy, it is imperative we provide our children in-person learning and reopen our schools."
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