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NEW YORK — New York City has more than 1,850 public schools, and now the Department of Education is planning to add two more unorthodox ones. The new schools will not be physical structures, but rather will be virtual schools – with all instructions online.
Schools Chancellor David Banks announced the new schools at a hearing of the City Council’s Education Committee on Tuesday. However, it is becoming clear that the city is a long way from seeing virtual academies become a reality.
If finalized, the schools are intended to help reduce truancy rates in DOE schools and provide an alternative for students who learn best outside of traditional classroom environments.
Even though schools are in the early stages of planning, that doesn’t stop some families from making plans themselves.
“I think everything is fine,” Kaliris Salas-Ramirez, an active member of the advocacy group Parents for Responsive Equitable Safe Schools, told PRESS NYC. “I think one of the things we learned in online learning after the pandemic started is that we have diverse learners in this system and we still have families who worry about security measures in schools.
She said she thinks it’s the right decision
David Bloomfield, professor of education at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center, said while online teaching can be helpful, much of the analysis of the DOE plan may be premature at this point.
“It’s the announcement of an announcement,” he said in an interview. “There’s really no plan yet on how many kids this will be able to accommodate and on the grades.”
Bloomfield pointed out that there is still a lot of work to be done before the Chancellor’s announcement can lead to the creation of real online schools. Even if they do, Bloomfield said, he worries they won’t be accessible to a wide variety of students.
“Who is going to be home with these children? Bloomfield asked. “It will probably be more affluent families, where the parents can stay at home or pay for child care. They’re going to need really good internet, and I’m afraid that’s going to favor wealthier families again.
“So I worry about who will be with the haves and who will be the have-nots,” he continued, “and that also means the haves won’t be in school with the have-nots.”
He believes there is still much to do. Bloomfield said he wasn’t sure the mayor and chancellor really thought about it”with the pomp of an online school announcement.
The city has other examples to follow. Denver, Colorado, for example, is the largest city with an active virtual school. Denver Online has been in business for 18 years. For New York, however, many details still need to be ironed out, including who will teach the classes and how.
For its part, the United Federation of Teachers, New York’s teachers’ union, released a brief statement: “We’ve had some initial conversations,” a spokesperson said, “but nothing concrete so far.” .
Still, Salas-Ramirez, the parents’ attorney, said she had indications that virtual schools were growing. She also said that their planning should have happened a while ago.
“We knew we had close to 70 per cent of families away last year,” she said, “so that’s something the Department of Education should have talked about, should have planned for, and so I am hopeful, and know that there is currently a working group on virtual learning within the Department of Education that some parents have been asked to be part of.