PS 321 SCHOOL LEADERSHIP TEAM
180 7th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11215
October 30, 2020
Dear Mayor DeBlasio and Chancellor Carranza,
We are writing to express our concerns regarding the recent announcement that remote learning parents will have only one opportunity to opt into blended learning this fall, reduced from three over the course of the school year. Although we believe this change is fundamentally unfair and ill-advised, our ask with this letter is for you to consider striking a balance, and add back one additional opt-in opportunity in late January or February. We believe this is the best balance to support your goals, and reduces the pressure families are feeling. Furthermore, we believe it is important for the NYCDOE to explicitly state and plan for this as an option for remote families.
First, we believe this mid-semester rule change is unfair to remote families who opted into remote learning with certain and repeated assurances about their ability to opt-in to blended learning at more than one point in the year once they felt safe in doing so. When families opted into 100% remote learning, it was to not only keep their own families safe, but also to protect all of the staff that work in our schools, to give our schools the best chance at success to reopen and to attempt to provide stability for their children. At a time when families are working so hard to get their kids educated, keep their jobs, and stay safe, putting pressure on them to make decisions about which they may be uncomfortable, is unfair. Taking flexibility away at a time when our families need all the flexibility we can provide them is deleterious. Those of us who are school leaders and teachers do not feel comfortable forcing the hand of or putting pressure on families to return to schools prematurely in a pandemic.
Although the DOE has indicated that this change is aimed at helping schools and teachers, the way in which this announcement has been made–suddenly changing the rules and giving remote families only two weeks to make a decision for the rest of the school year, without any public input or notice, could actually serve to cause more instability for teachers and administrators this fall. If many families may give way to this pressure to return prematurely, because now it is their only chance, schools would have to reduce their hybrid schedule offerings to accommodate the influx.
Lastly, we have concerns about timing and public health. Changing the date to have a potential influx of students returning November 30th, immediately following Thanksgiving break (when medical experts worry infections will rise due to holiday travel and exposure), is ill-timed and not in the best public health interests of our school communities.
We believe that, if given the second opt-in period, the return of students could happen more gradually and safely for all members of the school community, and protect the fragile structure that appears to be working for both blended and remote families and their schools.
We are urging you to reconsider, and add back in a second opt-in period allowing families to opt back in to the blended learning model early in 2021, and we call on our neighbors across the city to sign on in support of this letter.
The School Leadership Team at PS321