In every sense of the word, New York City is being tested by COVID-19. But its nearly 1 million public-school students are the ones who’ll face formal tests during the crisis—as they participate in a sudden, massive shift to online learning.
What their grades will look like, and how they will be counted to determine moves like promotion to the next grade or graduation from high school, are very much under discussion, Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza told the WBAI Max & Murphy Show on Wednesday.
“We’re working through those questions right now. Some of those things get locally determined. We get to make those decisions but we don’t make them in isolation. We’re working with our administrators, we’re working with our teacher’s unions,” he said. “We also have plans to bring in parents to help inform what those look like as well, and make some recommendations. Obviously, under mayoral control, the mayor gets the ultimate word on these kinds of things.”
The chancellor said all students in temporary housing now have wifi-enabled devices.
Carranza said he doesn’t see a “sell-by” date by which kids have to return to school in order to salvage some classroom time before the planned end of school on June 26. After all, there are high-school seniors who deserve their walk across the stage if it can possibly be arranged.
“I want to be optimistic that April 20th we come back but I also want to be realistic, given the way the social spread of this virus is happening, there’s a real possibility that we could go well beyond April 20th,” he said. “We’re also really concerned about our seniors. We want to make sure that they’re accumulating credits and they’re still meeting all their requirements for graduation. We want to make sure they’re still getting college career guidance as they’re applying for universities, colleges, and post-secondary opportunities.”
The schools chief painted an optimistic picture of where the system stands two weeks after sending kids and teachers home. Hunger Free America CEO Joel Berg was, in his words, more “apocalyptic” about how COVID’s economic fallout might affect hunger in the city, given the paucity of SNAP benefits and the limits on who can apply, exacerbated by the incredible strain being felt by food pantries.
“In 2008 when things were theoretically hunky-dory with the economy and stock market was still soaring and unemployment was low, more than a million people in New York City and a few hundred thousand children lived in households that [couldn’t] afford enough food. Stack on top of that the immediate loss of countless jobs, a far more rapid loss of jobs than even in the Great Depression because the job loss in the Great Depression took a few years. Add on top of that, a million meals a day being served by New York City public schools that aren’t being served, senior centers closing that were serving thousands of meals per day to seniors. On top of that, pantries and soup kitchens are closing,” Berg said.
“Even if you do have money, in low-income neighborhoods, people have less money to hoard than in wealthier neighborhoods so they may not even have food on their shelves,” Berg said. “We really are facing the biggest hunger crisis in modern New York history.”
Hear the full show below (recorded with both hosts in remote locations, for those scoring social distancing at home). The talk with Berg starts at around 18:00. Our chat with Carranza begins at 30:11.
with reporting by Anika Chowdury