Amid Limited School Closures to Contain COVID-19 Spread, Most NYC...


Amid Limited School Closures to Contain COVID-19 Spread, Most NYC Students Choose Remote Learning

Oct 16, 2020

Most of New York City’s 1,600 public schools are now open for hybrid learning, after a twice-delayed reopening. But in so-called “red” and “orange” zone sections of Brooklyn and Queens that are experiencing high infection rates of COVID-19, schools were required to close on Oct. 8, for at least two weeks, just a week after the city reached its last phase of school reopenings for the fall.

New York’s governor ordered the closures, along with other restrictions on mass gatherings, including religious convenings. Altogether, over 100 public schools are closed in the affected areas. Private schools must also remain closed. (In addition, individual classrooms and public schools throughout the city, including the City University of New York-operated Hunter College High School, have closed their doors for in-person learning after positive tests among members of the school community.)

The neighborhoods affected by the new restrictions have large populations of Hasidic Jews. Leaders of the communities have assailed state and city leaders for targeting their communities on religious grounds, for failing to reach out to community leaders, and for engaging in a “bait-and-switch” on the timetable and details of closures.

Protesters in the heavily Hasidic Brooklyn neighborhood of Borough Park—one of the areas where restrictions were imposed—have engaged in violence and flouted social distancing rules. Some yeshivas continue to operate, in violation of the school closures directive. In response, the governor announced Oct. 15 that he plans to withhold state funding from public and private schools that do not comply with public health directives.

While protests have roiled Borough Park, many families in other sections of New York City are choosing remote learning over a hybrid option. According to data released by the city’s education department earlier this week, 525,000 students—or approximately 52 percent of the school system’s 1.1 million students—opted for remote learning. (This figure does not include students whose schools are closed for hybrid learning due to rising COVID-19 counts.) In some parts of the city, the percentage of families choosing remote learning is as high as two-thirds.

New York City is the largest school district in the country and joins many others that have gone back to remote learning in response to upticks in COVID-19 infection rates. (Last week EdSurge reported on Boston Public Schools.) Nor is New York City alone in offering a remote option, even when hybrid or fully in-person learning is also available. According to an EdSurge/Social Context Labs database of 375 districts, 362 districts (97 percent) offer remote learning, either as a choice or as the only attendance structure available.

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