Families of Color Warn About COVID Spread in Schools. They’re Being Ignored.

For months, a small coalition of parents and educators has sounded the alarm about New York City’s reopening plan.

danny katch



Students have had a range of experiences with remote learning over the past 18 months, with some students thriving at home, others completely disappearing from the school system, and most falling at various points in between. Since last spring, when it seemed that vaccines could end the COVID pandemic in the United States, families and educators have eagerly awaited the start of a new “normal” this fall.

But the latest COVID spike, which in September led to over 2,000 daily deaths and critical shortages of ICU beds across much of the country, has once again turned school reopenings into a source of anxiety and argument — especially because children under 12 are ineligible for the vaccine (although that may change soon). But while some districts, including Los Angeles, are offering a choice of in-person or remote learning this year, many others are forcing almost all students to attend in person.

This decision is especially controversial in New York City, where the failure to promptly shut down schools in March 2020 was a major factor in allowing the deadly disease to spread. Throughout the following school year, Mayor Bill de Blasio — eager to get students back in school and parents back to work — promoted the safety and educational benefits of in-person learning, but the vast majority of families chose to remain remote, with Black and Asian students avoiding school buildings in especially overwhelming numbers.

This year, de Blasio is giving students no choice. But many parents remain concerned about the safety of in-person learning, especially because while cities like Chicago and Los Angeles plan weekly COVID tests for each student, New York’s plan is to test far fewer students — and only to test those who fill out a consent form. These fears have been borne out by the first weeks of school, which generated numerous social media images of overcrowded hallways, almost 3,000 positive COVID tests and the closure of over 1,000 classes. One week into the school year, the Department of Education (DOE) abruptly changed policy and…