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Covid-19: Impacting New York City Schools

When New York City schools closed due to Covid-19 in spring of 2020, frontline and essential workers were left without a place to send their children while they worked during the day. Thus sprang up 178 Regional Enrichment Centers across the five boroughs, supervising children in order to provide those parents some relief. (covid-short.pdf (nyc.gov))

The next school year, a system of remote and blended instruction developed, in which students could learn either entirely from home, or divide their time with several days in the classroom and the other days from behind a screen.

Finally, the schools reopened for face to face instruction in 2021. Parents and students breathed a sigh of relief. Many older students, recognizing the importance of an education as there would be a dearth of opportunities for one without a proper education, returned to the classroom extremely motivated and ready to learn. What about the younger students, however, who had no ruler by which to measure their entry into the school system? Perhaps these were the most difficult students to assimilate into the school system, for without the advantages of Pre-K, they did not have access to the foundations that would have been built, had they been in a traditional preschool setting.

These students now know that they must wear a mask always in school unless they are eating or drinking, and must social distance themselves from each other. In the cafeteria they are expected to social distance, because it is then that they are not wearing their masks. They use hand sanitizer frequently as well as wash their hands whenever they re-enter the classroom. But beyond the basic safety protocols that have become part of their lives as a result of Covid-19, some still forget to use good manners in the classroom for it is a skill they may have not had the opportunity to develop during at home learning.

Some are loud, discourteous, disrespectful, rude, and don’t know that they must be quiet when their teachers, other adults, and students are speaking. While some will immediately adjust their masks when asked to do so, others don’t as easily still their tongues.

Many kindergarten students are far behind their older counterparts having lost out on learning foundational academic skills. Their phonics skills, math skills, social science, and science skills are often below grade level. As well, procedures, besides masks, social distancing, and cleanliness, have changed. Students must fill in a health disclosure form and have their temperatures taken each morning before entering school buildings. In many schools, parents are not permitted freely in the building, and instead must depend upon a teacher or assistant to pick up and escort their child to class.

Here’s hoping that we as a city will be able to return to a place where these restrictions will able to be safely lifted soon, so that our children’s lives will merge towards normalcy. Otherwise, they will be at a disadvantage to compete with the previous older generation of students, and the subsequent younger students who are now receiving traditional preschool instruction, in what may be a competitive future job market.

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