Let’s see if we get this straight. New York City’s schools can’t fully reopen because of the continuing high risk of transmission of COVID-19 in classrooms. However, that traps parents — especially economically vulnerable single parents and two-income families — from being able to earn a living. NYC mayor Bill de Blasio has an idea to solve that conundrum (via Twitchy):
New York’s public schools plan to offer a mix of in-person classes and remote learning when a new school year starts — with students going to school one to three days a week, in order to cut the number of people in buildings and prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
That’s expected to create a major crunch for working parents with no one to watch their kids on the days they’re not in school.
The mayor rolled out plans to expand city-sponsored child care programs so 100,000 children from preschool through eighth grade will have a place to go on their off days. There are 1.1 million students in the city’s public school system, the largest in the nation.
“So many parents have also said they can’t make it work if they don’t get more child care,” de Blasio said. “We’ve been trying to find every way to create new child care — and to build it from scratch, honestly, because we’re having to create something that didn’t exist before on this scale.”
Bear with us for a moment, because this does make some logical sense, but still fails overall. The issue for reopening schools fully relates to the risks involved in keeping a number of children in an indoor room with an adult or two for an extended period of time. NYC has at least allowed for a partial school reopening (which is better than some cities like Los Angeles), but will restrict classes to only three days a week. That is because of a crucial capacity limit of 15 students per classroom in order to moderate the transmission risk, which is the somewhat-missing context.
Reopening for a maximum of three days per week per pupil — which is what de Blasio seems to have proposed — doesn’t really help parents, especially those in lower-income jobs that can’t be done remotely. They need their children in supervised environments for all five weekdays, which de Blasio acknowledged today. With classroom capacity cut roughly in half due to the capacity restriction, he has to find other facilities for the other two or more days per pupil.
So why not add capacity for teaching and keep students in classes all five days? Instead, de Blasio proposes to find new capacity to use as … indoor day-care centers with adult supervision as babysitters. No, I’m not kidding:
De Blasio said City Hall staffers are looking at sites like libraries and community centers to house the new child care programs. He said organizations that already provide after-school care under contract to the city will be asked if they can expand their services.
This makes no sense at all, even if classroom capacity is the issue, an argument that de Blasio himself never made in his presser outlining this proposal. Right now, NYC likely has a lot of empty spaces the city could sublease for classroom space. Hire more teachers — the union would love that — and spread the kids out to keep them in an educational environment instead of day care. Actual education provides much more structure, and therefore less risk of transmission-enhancing mischief, than eight hours of babysitting does.
Here’s de Blasio trying to explain his plan and its logistical challenges. What he never gets around to explaining is why five-day-a-week school is riskier than three-day-a-week school is, and why the education establishment is going to spend so much money on creating a largely non-educational warehousing environment for New York City’s children.