State of Our Schools: Parents opting out of in-person learning as schools prep to reopen

Farah Despeignes says she is not risking her health to send her two sons back into the classroom.

News 12 Staff

Feb 11, 2021, 12:46 AM

Updated 1,222 days ago


As middle schools prepare to reopen in the next two weeks, some parents are deciding not to make the switch to in-person learning. 
Farah Despeignes says she is not risking her health to send her two sons back into the classroom. 
“We are talking about two issues now, being safe - can you prove that to us?” says Despeignes. 
The Bronx mom is among a number of concerned parents of color who are keeping their children at home because they believe the city’s public schools aren’t safe enough for in-person learning during the pandemic. 
“If you couldn't to get it together before the pandemic, why would you get it now?” asks Despeignes. 
As a Bronx high school teacher for many years, Despeignes says she has seen firsthand the education disparities and lack of resources that schools in communities of color face just to get the basics for students. 
She says she’s skeptical that those challenges have changed within the past year for the city’s public school system. 
“It's not a teacher issue, this is not a principal issue, it's a systemic thing because Black and brown kids always left behind,” said Despeignes. 
Black and brown parents in communities like the Bronx have been hit hard during the coronavirus pandemic. 
Some have voiced that in-person learning poses too much of a risk for families with members with severe underlying health conditions. 
However, education officials continue to affirm that the city school environment has the lowest COVID rates compared to outside establishments and the surrounding communities. 
Mandatory random in-school testing continues once a week for both students and teachers. 
The Department of Education says, “The majority of students returning in person are students of color, and our school leaders and educators have done heroic work to meet the unique needs of their students, staff, and families as we continue to navigate this crisis."
The DOE says out of more than 161,000 students enrolled in blended learning from grades 3K to fifth grade, 22% are Black and 41% are Hispanic. 
Dispeignes is strongly urging the DOE to have a plan in place for parents who want to continue being fully remote long-term.

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