New York City Public Schools are still lacking 77,000 learning devices like tablets and laptops, nearly a month after classes began, and fewer than 15% of students attending schools in person have consented to getting randomly tested for COVID-19.
These details on the rocky reopening of public schools across the five boroughs came from a long-awaited City Council hearing held by the Education and Health committees on Friday. It was the first such hearing that Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza testified at since schools reopened on a staggered basis beginning on September 21st. Councilmember Mark Treyger, chair of the education committee, was forced to delay the hearing that was originally scheduled on September 29th, the day middle school children were returning to school.
"How many requests are you in receipt of as of this moment for devices and internet as of today?" Treyger asked Department of Education deputy chief operating officer Lauren Siciliano.
"As of this moment we have about 77,000 requests, but again we then go and verify the need for the school so it's a constant evolving number," Siciliano replied.
Data released by the DOE on Thursday showed that schools comprised of more Black and Hispanic students had low student engagement during the spring when they transitioned completely to remote learning. In some cases, the devices are the only way for children to learn given that more than half of the city's one million public school students have opted for remote learning only.
"We engage with the school and to better understand which is a device that is needed in the hands of a student, which is a device that has been requested to replenish supply, and it's not uniform across the entire DOE," said Carranza.
Treyger pointed out that Mayor Bill de Blasio had been saying for weeks that every student who needed a device had gotten one.
"The fact that thousands of our kids, particularly from under-resourced communities still don't have a device is unacceptable and shameful. And I want to lay the fault squarely with the mayor and his office for being in denial about the severity of this issue," he said.