NYC kindergartens remain open, raising questions about safety and fairness among staff

The four-year-olds participating in a city-funded pre-kindergarten program at the Quailac Infant Center were still in school on Thursday. The four-year-olds who enrolled in a public school pre-kindergarten program at PS175, a few blocks away in Rego Park, Queens, had to stay home.

The kindergarten is in a difficult situation as the city exceeds Mayor Bill de Blasio’s school closure threshold, an average of 7 days with a coronavirus positive rate of 3%. Those operated by community-based centers run by nonprofits and private companies can remain open. Building counterparts run by the education department must be closed, raising complex issues regarding the safety and impartiality of staff and families.

“If it’s not safe enough for the teacher [department of education] Buildings aren’t safe enough for my building teachers, “said Alice Mulligan, who runs the Savior’s Lutheran Kindergarten in Brooklyn. “We want to keep it open, but to be honest, my stomach absolutely turns around thinking that someone on my staff got sick.”

The city relies on programs run by nonprofits or small businesses to serve the majority of students enrolled in the Universal Free Pre-Kindergarten Initiative. The rest participate in public school programs.

Providers are well aware that families rely on them for childcare, and some centers also need to remain open to survive economically.

There is also the issue of fairness. Teachers and staff working in community-run kindergartens are likely to be of color and have lower wages than public schools. Some people are demanding a bounty if the rest of the school system employees are asked to work while at home.

Overlapping powers between cities and states have created confusion about opening and closing public schools. The same applies to these independently operated kindergartens. These kindergartens, which are considered an integral part of the city and state, are licensed by the city’s health department and contracted through the city’s education department.

“We have rigorous health and safety practices in place to support these programs, and we carefully monitor the average test positive rate across the city and provide guidance in response to changing public health conditions. We will continue to update, “said Sarah Casas Novas, a spokesman for the education sector.

The program can apply for an exemption to provide remote-only instructions. So far, only about 30 of the hundreds of providers have done so, the Ministry of Education said.

Confusing and contradictory guidance

However, contradictory guidance given to community organizations and public schools makes it difficult to make informed decisions about whether to stay open, with more than 800 toddlers, toddlers, and nonprofits in East Harlem. David Nocenti, executive director of Union Settlement, a non-profit organization that serves school children, said.

“Non-profit community-based organizations like Union Settlement, and the families we serve, are struggling to prepare for the possibility of public school closures, primarily for the city to make decisions. It doesn’t provide a defensive public health basis, “he writes. on mail.

This is a particularly confusing guidance entanglement, given that Governor Andrew Cuomo has set a conservative threshold to keep the campus open. The state allows schools to serve students until 9% of the community’s coronavirus tests return positive on average for seven days. The state also allows bars and restaurants to continue to serve their customers.

Meanwhile, the mayor has set stricter standards for the city to close schools this summer when teachers worried about the safety of school buildings threatened to strike. The influence of the Union Teachers’ Union, a union representing teachers in public schools, played a role in the city’s tougher threshold. This is another long-standing commitment to community-run pre-kindergartens.

Most community-run child care centers, often referred to as community-based organizations or CBOS, either have no members or are represented by District Council 37, whose employees are another union. These workers, the city recently agreed to a significant salary increase, but a public school pre-kindergarten program.

“I think it’s ridiculous that they close the school and not the CBO. It’s not that COVID stops at the CBO door and doesn’t go in there,” said Henry Galid, DC37 Secretary-General. ..

Gregory Brender, who works on youth policy issues at the non-profit United Settlement Houses, said program leaders want their staff to be rewarded for continuing to work, even with more cases of coronavirus. ..

“They are already paid less than teachers in the Ministry of Education, but they have to get a job while the school is closed,” Blender said.

Financial and logistics burden

Other cities prioritized early education during the pandemic. In Denver, only preschool to second grade students go directly to school, but authorities have decided this week to close the classroom after Thanksgiving. In Michigan, the governor closed high schools and colleges this week, but elementary and junior high schools can keep their doors open. Some elected officials are calling on New York City to take a similar approach.

Kevin Khun, Secretary-General of the Quailak Infant Center in Rego Park, Queens, said: “Since children are out of school, they do some harm to the statistics of the coronavirus itself.

Still, only about half of the center’s students are present, Kang said. His center has privately funded students who support publicly funded seating. Enrollment in his private program has space for 60 children, but has been reduced to just 14. It has created a financial incentive to stay open.

Mr. Kang has been unable to pay full rent since this summer after running out of federal salary protection loans. He is still waiting for state support assigned to help reopen the childcare business after New York City was forced to close due to the seriousness of the health crisis.

Meanwhile, his operating costs have continued to skyrocket. To enhance safety, Kang has contracted with the company to upgrade his school’s air filtration system and provide on-site COVID testing.

He said he would monitor the city’s infection rate and keep in touch with family and teachers to determine if they could safely come to school. For now, he plans to stay open as long as some students continue to come.

“We receive a message,’keep it open,'” he said. “We need to take it every day.”

It was already difficult to understand the logistics for deploying enough teachers in two versions of kindergarten, face-to-face and remote. However, many teachers have children in public schools and face their own childcare challenges, said Vaughn Toney, executive director of Friends of Crown Heights, one of the city’s largest childcare providers. Says.

Still, Tony plans to keep the door open at the 19 centers he oversees. Many students have chosen to study online, but others work in hospitals or as other essential workers and have parents who need face-to-face care.

Tony is aware of the challenges and risks of performing surgery during a pandemic. Just this week, one center had to be closed after the two tested positive.

“Everyone has to play their part,” he said. “Our role is to serve the children of families who are on the front lines.”

The question is whether families will continue to feel safe to take their children to community-based kindergartens, even if the rest of the public school system is closed. During the pandemic in New York City, Tony opened three emergency daycare centers, but attendance was low due to other family arrangements.

“No one appeared,” he said. “Many of our parents chose to stay home.”

NYC kindergartens remain open, raising questions about safety and fairness among staff

Source link NYC kindergartens remain open, raising questions about safety and fairness among staff

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