Brooklyn’s Mark Treyger wants the city to offer more in-person schooling to young and disabled kids who fare especially poorly in remote learning. The temporary shutdown offers a chance to adopt such a plan, he says.

Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

A socially-distanced New York City classroom in October, when hybrid learning was still in effect.

Mayor de Blasio’s decision to temporarily suspend in-person schooling generated a cacophony of concern—many voices singing loudly, but striking different notes. 

Jumaane Williams, the city’s public advocate, said, “there is absolutely no leadership present.” Council Speaker Corey Johnson sounded a similar tune: “This has been a disaster for parents and caregivers.” Jennifer March, who leads the Citizens Committee for Children, urged the Department of Education “to take immediate action to ensure that all of New York City’s students are now provided with the support they need to facilitate successful remote learning,” while Christine Quinn, chief of Women in Need, said “the Department of Education and Department of Homeless Services must finally step up to provide students with the resources they need to stay on track.”

Like many of the critics, Mark Treyger, the former high-school teacher who represents a Brooklyn district in the City Council and heads the Council’s education committee, argued the disruption caused by the mayor’s move was unnecessary.

“It doesn’t have to be this way,” he told WBAI’s Max & Murphy Show. “This disproportionately impacts our most vulnerable children and families. I was already contacted by a hospital worker asking me what is she going to do for childcare tomorrow, she’s considering taking off work tomorrow to care for her son, which means that she also will not be working and caring for patients in the hospital and over a pandemic.”

Treyger believes the flaws embedded in Wednesday’s announcement by the mayor—the lack of public coordination with the governor, the absence of any reopening plan—are the outgrowth of a larger policy failure.

He’s argued the administration took the wrong approach to in-person learning, offering it in tiny doses to all students rather than reserving that resource for the kids who need it most. And he says remote learning has not been working well, especially for children in younger grades but for older kids as well.

“Many high school kids have shared with me that iPads are really not working for them. It’s hard to type an essay on an iPad. They’ve been asking for Chromebooks, they’ve been asking for laptops. I’ve been telling this to the DOE and they’re trying to order them now but they’re in competition with every school district across America,” he contended. “But I’ve been telling this to the mayor’s office since six months ago.”

De Blasio on Wednesday said he and Chancellor Richard Carranza would detail in coming days the criteria and procedures they will put in place for getting kids back to school. Treyger argues that the suspension offers a chance to reset the entire policy.

“Why not prioritize our personnel, our resources, our energy for in-person for kids who truly need in-person services, and we know who they are, while also ensuring every child and every student has access to technology?” he said. “There is nothing stopping the mayor from cancelling this failing hybrid model which has not worked whatsoever and move towards a plan that is centered by both safety and equity for our families.”

Listen to the conversation with Treyger below, or check out the full show, which includes an interview with Senate Finance Chair Liz Krueger.

Councilmember Mark Treyger on the School Shutdown

Max & Murphy Full Show of November 18, 2020