Most NYC parents don’t want their kids back in school: data


More than 200,000 New York City parents have chosen to keep their kids home when school starts in September, shunning a combination of in-person and remote learning, according to preliminary data.

Of 322,572 families who filed an online preference form with the Department of Education by Thursday, 212,940 requested 100 percent remote learning — nearly twice the 109,362 who chose blended learning, according to a tally obtained by The Post.

The DOE gave parents through Friday to chose between the two options and said anyone who did not pick would be in the blended model by default. There are 1.1 million children enrolled in the school system.

Kimberly Watkins, president of the parent advisory Community Education Council in District 3, which covers the Upper West Side and South Harlem, said the number of forms filed at the 11th hour raises questions about whether the DOE has a firm handle on parent preferences.

“The low response rate 24 hours before the deadline speaks volumes about the legitimacy of having parents make the decision with so little information about health and safety in the building, or the standards for remote learning,” Watkins said.

“It means there are a ton of people responding right up to the deadline, or they’re not going to respond at all.”

Besides fear of contracting COVID-19 in school, Watkins said, high school parents are concerned about their children’s commutes on mass transit, while elementary school parents worry about a “highly constrained” environment where kids cannot interact or even show emotion through their masks. On the other hand, many parents have also complained about the lack of live instruction in video classrooms.

The results did not surprise a Manhattan principal who told The Post he learned that at one high school in midtown all but one of 275 parents who responded so far chose full remote learning.

The lone parent who opted for blended classes asked “how much soap and sanitizer will be in the restroom.”

Bronx mom Mariama Jalloh said she is scared about having her daughters in school, particularly the older girl who is 16 and has asthma. She attends Truman High School in the Bronx.

“It’s risky to have to wear a mask all day,” Jalloh said. “If I have the choice, I don’t want to send my kids to school and I am not ready to send them.”

Her younger daughter, who is 9, goes to a Success Academy school. The charter school network plans to start the year off remotely and then move to a mix of in-person and remote instruction.

A Queens mom with sons in second and fourth grades said she didn’t want her kids “to be guinea pigs.”

“I have no idea what other families have been doing to keep safe outside of school hours,” she said. “I don’t need this kind of variable and stress in our lives. I also want to keep teachers’ families safe.”

A DOE spokeswoman called the early survey numbers “inaccurate” but refused to provide any data.

“The survey is only for parents who want full-time remote learning — we’ve been abundantly clear that this survey is not intended to capture the preference of every single family in the system,” said Miranda Barbot.

Barbot said the results included some who had changed their minds from remote learning to blended, but she did not provide a breakdown.

Mayor de Blasio said he will release the parent preferences on Monday.

Parents who choose blended learning can opt into fully remote learning at any time. But after Aug. 7, families who choose 100% remote can switch to blended on a quarterly basis only, at specific times during the school year.

Parents were asked to make their initial choices without knowing exactly what their child’s in-person schedule will look like and other specifics of their school’s plans.

“Your school will be in touch about its schedule and programming plans in the coming weeks,” the DOE says on the form.

Principals need the parental preferences to schedule classes and determine how many teachers are needed for both remote and in-person classes. Principals have until Aug. 14 to submit their schools’ plans to the DOE.

The preliminary data suggests that parents are far less eager to send their kids back into school buildings than de Blasio has claimed.

The mayor has touted the results of an earlier survey, released July 2,  which he said showed that 75 percent of 400,000 people who responded favored a return to the classroom.

“I ask everyone when we bring you an exceptional piece of information, please give it its due — 400,000 people responding to a survey and 75 percent say they want their kid back in school,” de Blasio said at a press conference Friday.

“I think what we have is a huge level of parent buy-in based on what we’ve seen so far.”

But the actual survey results, first reported in the Bklyner blog, paint a less enthusiastic picture.

The DOE received responses from 301,138 families — not 400,000 parents — and 117,700 students in Grades 6 to 12.

The families were asked “How comfortable are you with sending your child to a school building every day this fall, if recommended health and safety measures, such as social distancing, are in place?”

Mariama Jalloh and her daughters wearing masks outside their home in the Bronx.
Mariama Jalloh and her daughters wearing masks outside their home in the Bronx.Robert Miller

Only 28 percent said they were “very” comfortable. Another 25 percent were “somewhat” comfortable, 24 percent “a little” comfortable, and 22 percent “not” comfortable.

The student responses to the same question totaled 83 percent for the various levels of comfortable, and 17 percent “not.”

Asked to rank their preference about how often kids should be in school, 53 percent of parents said several days a week and 19 percent favored sending them on alternating weeks. The rest, 26 percent, wanted only remote learning.



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