The Littlest Warriors

13 September 2021


Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

New York City Public Schools Fully Open


The New York City Public Schools are holding their first day of class for the 2021-22 academic year today. About one million children receive their education in the nation's largest school district. Last year, a great many of them attended remotely or in a hybrid (partially remote with some classroom time). That is no longer an option. If the city's kids can return safely, it will be a huge step forward. If they can not, then the recovery from the pandemic will take a lot longer. One expects stop-and-go to be the order of the autumn. Once the youngest kids can get vaccinated, the end will truly be in sight.

The need for the schools to re-open is only partially explained by the need for children to learn both academically and socially. Policy makers have devolved a great deal of social work onto the public school systems of America. Chief among these is child-care. For six or so hours a day, the state looks after children who are in school. There are, in many places, after-school programs provided not so much because they are needed for academic development but because they are necessary for parents who work an 8-hour day.

The children of New York City are fortunate in that their community is heavily vaccinated. Close to 80% of adults have had at least one dose of the vaccine. When the kids are added into the mix, the figure is still a healthy 67+%. This means that community spread is more difficult for the virus. Also, 100% of school staff and adult volunteers are getting the vaccine. Add in mask mandates for the students, and the level of safety is about as high as one could expect.

Weighing on this is the age of most New York City schools. It is known that increased ventilation decreases the virus' ability to infect a host. Many schools have put air filter systems in place, but by and large, opening the windows and running some fans is the best the aging buildings can do.

Another factor, which few in the education debates have considered, is public transportation. Not every kid in New York City walks to school or gets a ride from Mom or Dad. They take city buses and the subway, as many as 100,000 a day. Those kids could well be exposed if an infected person is on board as well. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority requires masks for everyone, vaccinate or not. This will help immensely. Yet, there are 15-year-olds out there who will not follow the rules. They are at risk.

This journal believes that the conditions are acceptable for the schools to re-open with full-time, in-person learning. Mayor De Blasio erred in declaring there would be no remote learning this year. The option should be there. Moreover, one expects the virus to flare up as a result of the schools being open. Manhattan and Queens have more than 70% of their adults with at least one shot. The Bronx, Brooklyn and Staten Island are in the low 60% range. Those boroughs may see school closures in a few weeks.

This school year is starting with a great deal of optimism, and when the closures are necessary, that mood will shift. However, New York has taken the lessons of April 2020 (when thousands of New Yorkers died from Covid) to heart. If the data suggest closure is necessary, schools will close. Remote learning, which was the norm last year, can be stood up over-night. By Thanksgiving, it will be necessary, at least as a back up.

Right now, 17% of those in New York under 18 have been fully vaccinated, and that number can not rise very much because there are no approved vaccines for those under 12. There probably will be at least one by January 2022. Until then, the kids are walking to combat with the virus armed with hand sanitizer and masks. The next Battle of New York has begun, and the little warriors with the Hello, Kitty and Batman lunchboxes are on the front lines.

© Copyright 2021 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.

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