NYC DOE chief Banks promises to keep schools open during the COVID rise

The head of the Ministry of Education, David Banks, vehemently defended keeping schools open in the midst of the coronavirus rise in an interview with The Post, arguing that recurring disruptions cause chaos for children.

“A lot of the time, people are talking about distance learning from an adult perspective,” Banks said at DOE headquarters a week into his tenure. “If you listen to this from a student perspective, the kids want to go to school.”

Banks – which blew up the closure of Chicago schools this week – said shaking classrooms hurts children, especially vulnerable students.

“When you separate them from it, it creates a huge emotional vacuum,” Banks said. “What we saw was that much of that vacuum was filled with a lot of negativity. This gang element. So many of these stories that we’ve seen around children carrying guns and being engaged in this rash of negative behavior. It was because they were removed from their normal routine. “

Banks acknowledged increased absenteeism rates for students and staff this week amid a coronavirus wave, but predicted that classrooms will eventually normalize.

The students are standing outside in the snow
NYC public schools remained open Friday while Catholic schools closed due to the snow.
Paul Martinka

“The decision that the mayor made was the right decision to open these schools,” he said. “We had over 600,000 students who have returned to school. Listen, our numbers are still down compared to what they would normally be. But given the circumstances we are dealing with, I feel really good about where we are. ”

He attributed the majority of students’ absences to continued parental unrest over COVID-19 given the recent increase in cases, but claimed that data show schools are safe.

“We knew it would be down,” he said of the attendance this week. ‘There are still a lot of parents who are worried. And I can not blame them. We should all be concerned. But I think over the next few weeks you will start to see those numbers turn around. “

Buses lined up on the street in snowy weather.
Buses stop along Brooklyn Street on Jan. 7 as a “bomb cyclone” snowstorm passes through the east coast.
Paul Martinka

Banks said the peak of the current COVID-19 increase is still on the horizon and that any transition to distance learning would have been in place for an extended period of time.

“We would probably be remote in the next four to six weeks,” he said. “And no one wanted to see it happen again. I feel sorry for what’s going on in Chicago. It’s going to be so bad for the kids. It’s an adult fight going on out there.”

Referring to the spread of the virus in recent weeks, United Federation of Teachers asked Mayor Eric Adams to temporarily implement distance learning to allow staff to stabilize.

Mayor Eric Adams (r) and Chancellor David Banks at a news conference at Concourse Village Elementary School in Fleetwood, The Bronx.
Mayor Eric Adams appointed David Banks Chancellor in December 2021.

Other union groups have described the conditions inside the city’s schools as unsafe and highlighted infection rates for students and staff, and they have been adamant in calling for a break in classroom teaching.

In addition, a group of city and state lawmakers have also lobbied Adams this week to offer a temporary distance learning opportunity to give parents time to get their kids tested.

But Banks said he is committed to keeping classroom doors open and working with union leaders to that end.

The Brooklyn native and graduate of the city’s public schools said he talks to UFT president Michael Mulgrew and principal union chief Mark Cannizzaro several times a day.

“We are all on the same page,” he said. “We did the right thing. We put everything in place. We know it’s not going to be perfect. It’s going to be very uneven throughout the month of January and maybe even a little bit into February. But at some point it will change, and we want to be better at it. “

Despite stepping into his chancellorship amid a maelstrom, Banks said he has been lifted by staff and student enthusiasm during visits to city schools this week.

“It was just a beautiful thing to see,” he said. “The level of commitment from the teachers, from the administrators, from the school security agents, the freedom engineers. It has been nothing short of amazing. “


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