Tag Archives: cuomo

Gov. Cuomo, Too Much is at Risk if We Reopen Schools


Dear Gov. Cuomo,

In your news conference today, you spent time empowering the voices of parents, and to some extent, teachers, with regard to the reopening of schools in our state. Incidentally, I am both a parent of students in Nassau County and a teacher in Queens. So is my wife. I bring a doubly anxious and concerned perspective to the idea of reopening.

While I certainly appreciate the logic behind opening schools as a way to get people back to work and the economy on the right track, I can’t possibly see past the myriad issues that are confronting my family and the communities we live and work in if in-person instruction is to resume.

You deserve credit for the way your leadership helped New Yorkers suppress the horrible crisis we faced this spring. Your messaging has been constant and consistent to the point it is ingrained in the minds of many New Yorkers. Thankfully, we are doing well. However, I do believe that if we reopen schools, we do so at the peril of ratcheting up the crisis once more, and there are many reasons why. You yourself have warned that New York will potentially suffer the effects of the many places around the country that are seeing a surge in cases.

I can’t wrap my head around the idea that, in New York City, as dense and populous as it is, indoor restaurants and bars can’t open, but schools can. A theoretical argument might posit that social distancing will be required, masks will be worn, plexiglass will be installed, filtration will be improved, etc. As it turns out, I am on the reopening committee for my school, and based on the information coming from the New York City Department of Education – or lack thereof – the prospect of reopening doesn’t only sound implausible, it sounds terrifying. The state and city budgets are decimated, and who knows when the gridlock in Washington might be broken to deliver us the funds we need?

My wife teaches kindergarten. I teach third grade self-contained special education. In neither of our classrooms is it reasonable to expect constant compliance from these young children. It isn’t natural, nor is it productive for their education.

You are a father, just like me. We have raised our children. As I reflect back on their younger years, I ask myself: When my children were in kindergarten, could they have reasonably been expected to wear a mask for 6 hours and 50 minutes? Could they have reasonably been expected to keep a safe distance from their friends at all times? Could they reasonably have been expected to make it through a day without a hug from their teacher? While crying? While having a nose bleed? While being scared of something? The list goes on and on. It just can’t be done.

As a parent, I can guarantee that task would have been impossible for my children, and even if it wasn’t, there would definitely have been children in their classes and schools for whom it was. My point is: it all sounds nice on paper, but in practice? I have no faith in it working. Many of my colleagues and friends share the same concerns and fears.

As a teacher, how can I perform my job at my best if I don’t feel I am safe, or that my students are safe, or that my family is safe? Covid-19 doesn’t discriminate. And if I’m back in a school building, with my wife also in a building, with our children in their separate schools, we are just running up our chances to get sick or worse. The domino effect that will be caused by any one person involved with a school (indirectly as a parent or directly as a student or teacher) will be catastrophic to the point that conceivably, schools will need to close, reopen, and close again the next day because of new cases. What is the point? 

What is more important than safety? Without your health, you have nothing. I have never dreaded the start of the school year more.

I allow that remote learning was not a great success when we transitioned to it overnight in March. That’s not the fault of the teachers, parents, or students who learned on the fly how to do things in a completely different way. The fact is, we were all caught unprepared because our leadership at every level was unprepared.

Now, months later, principals and teachers are being asked – no, forced – to contrive measures with minimal logical guidance in order to keep their school communities safe, or should I say, as safe as possible. I venture to guess that very few of these people have healthcare backgrounds, and so the mission is doomed to fail from the start. It’s not for lack of caring or effort. It’s just too awesome a task to tackle. 

Why not devote this time and whatever money will be spent toward safety measures to something that can demonstrably improve our current situation: professional development for remote pedagogy? How about training for parents? 

The piecemeal, patchwork way we got through the spring is not sustainable, and the likely reality is that once we are back in person, we’re going to wind up being remote anyway. In Corona, Queens, where my wife and I work, this is all but guaranteed. Neighboring Elmhurst was the epicenter of the entire country. Is there any reason to think it won’t be hit terribly again?

Our role is to educate, to inspire, and to meet our students’ various needs. I’m telling you now, I can’t do that without feeling confident in my safety or that of my family. Reopening schools in-person is a recipe for disaster and heartbreak. I recently told my 14-year old daughter, who was challenging our strictness about her social life, that my greatest worry is that she, or one of us, will be involved in a new outbreak without being aware. In other words, we go about our lives and suddenly, we’re part of a new health crisis. Is that necessary?

Governor, you have showed the entire country a model for stemming the awful tide of this pandemic for our wonderful state. You’re owed a great debt of gratitude. However, you know we’re not out of the woods yet. So let me ask you, then: rather than ease off the accelerator, why not continue to go full throttle toward stemming the tide? If we keep our foot on the throat of this crisis, don’t we keep all New Yorkers – including parents, teachers, and students – safer? You are fond of the mountain metaphor, and now, thankfully, we are on the other side of the first mountain. But it’s only the first. Another seemingly inevitable mountain looms ahead. 

There is much work to still be done to protect New Yorkers’ lives. An obvious way to do that is to allow districts to go fully remote to start the year. Do as you have always done as we proceed: evaluate, reevaluate, and adjust the sails. The potential human toll is too great to do anything else.

I’m a dad. I’m a teacher. I hold both roles deeply in my heart. I chose both as paths for me many years ago. I have never looked back. I have loved my children and my students. 

My grandmother lived to be 91 and would always say, “If you’re healthy, you’re happy.” Governor, I am very worried that there’s a lot of unhappiness on the horizon. Please do your part to limit that as much as possible.

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Gov. Cuomo, Don’t Gamble with Lives to Open Schools


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Dear Gov. Cuomo,

I write to you today as a career educator entering my 13th year as an elementary school teacher in Corona, Queens. You’ll recall Corona as the literal epicenter of New York’s Covid-19 outbreak. I work there. My students and their families live there. Many of them contracted Covid, and in our school, many students are now mourning the deaths of their grandparents and parents.

I also write to you as a father. I’ve got three children who mean the world to me. One starts high school this year, another sets off for middle school, and the other, who is 2, happily oblivious to any of the world’s sadness (or even my and his mommy’s worries) and who has attended daycare since 6-months old. He randomly announced yesterday, “I miss school.”

During this pandemic, you have shown bold and courageous leadership for our state, garnering you acclaim and national recognition as you deftly worked around and against the absence of leadership from the White House. While the President railed against masks as a sign of weakness, you urged New Yorkers to wear them as a sign of respect. While the President frighteningly and stupefyingly painted a rosy picture of a once-in-a-generation health crisis, you spoke honestly, truthfully, and bluntly about the public responsibility to help flatten the curve. Although most people probably would never choose to live life under lockdown, cherished community institutions shuttered and family norms shattered, the fact is it worked.

You also acknowledge that New York will see a rise in cases as cases rise around the country. It is generally accepted that come fall, the pandemic will reach its second wave, which, they say, will be worse than the first.

Governor, your priority for our state through this pandemic has been public health. I understand that the economy needs to creak back to life, truly I do. But if that has to come at the potential expense of student and teacher lives, is it worth it?

Trump has flouted every recommendation from people who know more than any of us. His level of hubris and self-assuredness in the face of unrelenting fact, numbers, and basically, destruction, have led this country down a dark road into a cavernous abyss where we laypeople are sacrificed for the cause of his bungling bid to be reelected. His calls for reopening states to drive the economic engine have been more than irresponsible. They’ve been reckless, selfish, and without question, deadly.

At every opportunity you have distinguished yourself as the AntiTrump, showing greater understanding of the long game of the pandemic. I am calling on you to continue to do so. When Trump and DeVos call for opening schools, I urge you to stand up for our students and teachers and not lead them over a cliff the way Trump has already done to so many Americans who have become victims of his lack of caring or understanding.

How can schools open without proper funding, enough space, a vaccine? Is it your position that to move the economy along, children must die? Teachers must figure out ways to deal with immensely challenging scenarios and educate children while anxiously worrying about their own health and that of their families? Can you imagine a school functioning to it’s fullest educational capacity when everyone is trying to understand how to keep pre-k students from being near each other, or keep mischief makers from messing around with their masks, or walk down the halls with 6 feet around every student in each direction? This is not only senseless, it’s impossible.

Whatever money there is this year that’s meant to go toward sanitization, cleanliness, barriers, PPE, and whatever else is needed to bring students back to school, why not take that money instead and invest it into professional development to help teachers improve their remote pedagogy? Why not use it to bring awareness and understanding to parents who will be home with their children while they learn remotely? Why not use it to fund childcare services for parents who can’t stay home for remote learning?

We need to be thinking outside the box. It’s not enough to say, “Kids need to be back in school.” They do, of course. But if it means they’re going to die, or their teachers will, well, I don’t see how that’s worth it.

The threshold you’ve prescribed – that a region must be under 5% infected over 14 days – assumes you are okay with approximately 100 students and staff in my building being sick at one time, and potentially having their lives at risk. And on top of that, it’s okay by you that, as we extrapolate the numbers, the likelihood of sustained infection and outbreak in the building just goes higher and higher. We don’t yet know how kids spread the disease because we haven’t seen enough kids together during this pandemic. Why assume the best when that almost certainly means more illnesses and deaths?

You are keen to point out repeatedly, and justifiably so, that being “New York State tough” allowed NY to be a model for the country, a beacon of what you should do to handle this crisis. With your own admission that cases will rise due to surges around the country, as well as a recent Siena/NY Times poll indicating 82% of New Yorkers expect things to be worse in the fall, I just don’t understand your gamble.

Trump gambles with lives. Why are you?