New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio abruptly shut down the largest school system in the nation on Nov. 18. More than 1.1 million students were ordered to stay home, robbed of the opportunity to learn, to discover, and to create the change we so need in this world. Their educational journey was halted, yet again, as 1,700 New York City public schools closed their doors in the name of COVID-19, a virus that has spared children in a kind of miraculous way.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the survival rate of COVID-19 for school-aged children among those who contract it is a shocking 99.99 percent. In fact, new data shows a greater number of pediatric deaths from the seasonal flu than COVID-19 — over three times as many deaths, to be exact. The CDC estimates at least 434 pediatric deaths associated with the flu during the 2019-2020 season, a season cut short by nationwide lockdowns no less, as compared to 133 who sadly died from COVID-19 since the virus’s emergence some nine months ago. Most of them had underlying health conditions.
Less than two weeks after closing schools, de Blasio abruptly announced that schools should now reopen for children in pre-K through fifth grade, only about 190,000 children in a school district of 1.1 million. In his usual fashion, de Blasio has given no explanation as to why schools are suddenly safe to enter again for these children and not others.
De Blasio Is Ignoring the Data
De Blasio has offered no truly science-based reasons to the nonpartisan parents who seek truth and answers as to why their children’s schools were shuttered in the first place and then reopened again at the drop of a hat. He disregards the parents who wake up each day wondering whether their children will be allowed the basic privilege of an education today, parents who watch as their children fail to thrive under a pathetic hybrid virtual learning alternative, parents who struggle to find proper child care so they can go to work to put a roof over their heads and food on their tables.
If you had asked de Blasio his reasoning for closing schools, he would have told you smugly, proudly, in a my-way-or-the-highway kind of tone, that New York City had reached a 3 percent COVID-19 positivity rate. He would have left you with that meaningless piece of information and not a word more — no further discussion to explain the correlation between a citywide, arbitrary piece of data and the positivity rates within the schools themselves, which is at just 0.28 percent citywide. In fact, schools within the borough of Manhattan alone reported a mere 0.17 percent positivity rate at the time schools closed.
That data was irrelevant to de Blasio. The entire city reached a 3 percent COVID-19 positivity rate — end of story. See you soon, kids — we hope. But why? Why would de Blasio close schools so brazenly when they have undoubtedly proved to be one of the safest places these last three months? Were all these disturbing protocols to which our children have been subjected, including mask-wearing, Plexiglas, and social distancing, for naught?
New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza would have led you in a different direction, scaring you into believing school closures were for the safety of teachers and administrators — but hold it. According to the CDC, those aged 20-49, the majority age of those walking the halls at school, have a mere 0.0002 percent infection fatality ratio.
If that figure isn’t enough to get teachers back to work, consider the risk our frontline workers take each day — and I don’t just mean the heroic doctors, nurses, and hospital administrators working day and night, face to face with COVID-positive patients. Consider the grocery store workers tirelessly stocking the shelves, your FedEx and UPS drivers, the deli man behind the counter, the pilots, flight attendants, and airport security teams around the country. Consider the risks these workers take when they serve you. Likewise, teachers are essential to our children’s well-being and future.
Schools Are Essential
It is worth noting that parents of children in New York City’s private schools will have averted the danger of de Blasio’s overreaching authority. Many of those fortunate children escaped de Blasio’s harmful decree and continued to attend school as normal, as they should.
For many families, however, private school isn’t currently possible. Consider the effects on those kids, particularly minority and underprivileged children, who suffer disproportionately from the mayor’s reckless and unfounded decision to close schools. The educational divide will inevitably worsen if public schools continue to open and close at the mayor’s whim. Every minute of every day counts for these children and their families. Closing schools should never be an option.
When will it end? When will I sleep easy again, knowing my child will be in school today, tomorrow, and the months to come? When is it the parents’ turn to fight back against these arbitrary school shutdowns and question our leaders’ undying loyalty to the powerful teachers union?
COVID-19 should be the least of our worries when we consider the psychological and emotional effects these school closures and reckless decisions have on our children: the rise in child abuse, substance abuse, drug addictions, and suicide rates, just to name a few. Our children are suffering, plain and simple. Knowledge is power, and education is at the heart of it all.