Video: Reopening a New York City School: ‘It’s Been a Tough Start’

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“There’s never going to be another first day like this one.” Announcer: “The largest school district in the United States reopened its doors today.” “Thermometers — this needs to go to every single family today. Grab a box of masks — temperature checks.” Announcer: “First experiment in in-person learning since March.” “That’s not 6 feet, right? I re-imagined the school at least 100 times since we started planning for reopening. Anybody need a mask? Let me know if any children need a mask.” Announcer: “It’s going to look dramatically different.” Announcer: “After weeks of delays because of safety concerns —” “Good morning!” “So now, let’s take a minute to reflect on our feelings. Who would like to share first? How are you feeling today? Hannah.” “I feel happy.” “You feel happy? Why do you feel happy today?” “Because I came back to school.” “Looks like it’s going to be a smooth opening. Just pray nobody gets sick. We don’t know what’s going to happen. Is this going to blow up in front of our faces? It’s going to be very challenging.” Announcer: “Shutdowns caused by the coronavirus could exacerbate existing achievement gaps in education.” “This is how you spell my name.” Announcer: “Educators are seeing students sliding backwards, losing some of their most important skills.” “OK, Kasiyah — OK, sweetheart, you are going to go across and tell me each letter.” “A, F, L —” “Uh-huh.” “D.” “Good job. Can you turn to the next page? O.K., just go across. It’s OK if you don’t know.” “It’s —” “OK, thank you.” “Teachers are now trying to make up for the loss that happened when we first shut down our schools. You have some first graders coming in at kindergarten level. Technology cannot replace a teacher.” “Thank you.” “We spent all day yesterday with passwords and usernames. But then you come back this morning. I don’t have the password. I don’t have it.” “So the poor teachers are having a nightmare with this.” “I have so many problems — kids that can’t get in, pop-ups that can’t be unblocked, parents I’m trying to troubleshoot with.” “My head is going to explode one of these days.” “OK, what’s the protocol for that? Anyone complaining of symptoms? Yes, let me report it. Yep, OK.” “Can we not record this?” “Yeah, this can’t be recorded.” Announcer: “Just days after reopening, some New York City schools are being closed after coronavirus outbreaks.” “If nobody comes in the front, do you want me in the back?” “Yeah, in case those parents show up, please, just like —” “OK.” Announcer: “In New York, there has been an uptick in cases.” Announcer: “Rising infections returning kids to remote learning.” “Let me speak to your mommy. “There’s a situation with corona. The virus. Covid.” “OK.” “So they’re going to work remotely from home.” “On the computer in the home?” “Mm-hmm. In the home. Like we were doing earlier this year.” “Right.” “So we’re going to be working virtually until further notice. You don’t know where the cases are going to come from.” “But you have to move back. You have to remember your spacing.” “Everybody’s walking on pins and needles.” “Move back. You’re very — you’re just too close. If you can touch the person in front of you, that means you’re way too close.” “You’re trying to figure out how to prevent something that may not be preventable.” Announcer: “One area that’s really hit hard is the Bronx.” Announcer: “The overall highest rate of Covid-19 deaths.” “The pandemic hit.” “The school was closed.” “We had a teacher who passed away.” [ambulance siren] “The children were seeing a lot of death and dying.” “Seeing and hearing ambulances going in and out of the buildings that they live in. And, sadly, I’ve heard of students losing family members. Especially after such a challenging moment in their lives, they’re the ones who need to be able to express to us what they’re feeling.” “This is tough. “They can’t hear me.” “Are you on mute?” “Can you hear me now?” “Yeah.” “Oh, I’m sorry. Listen, it’s technology for you. So, look, you see my selfie mask?” [laughter] “Oh, goodness gracious. Anyway, we’re going to be making this. When we open it up, we’re going to put things in here that describe us. What kind words are you going to say about yourself?” “I’m grateful.” “You’re grateful? OK.” “How do you spell angry?” “Angry? A-N-G-R —” “Y.” “Y — I want you to put a star around angry, because we got to talk about that.” “Every day, we’re dealing with a family member dying, a family that needs food, a family that doesn’t have the technology to log in.” “This is Miss Anglada. I called, Mom, because we’re getting a little bit concerned. We’re noticing that the girls aren’t logging in every day on the Google Classroom.” “We were having students that we could not locate because of internet issues or technology issues.” “The number you dialed is not in service.” [busy signal] “Uh, I think you have the wrong number.” “Doesn’t work. This is so frustrating.” “Whenever we can’t locate a child, we go to the homes.” “We’ll be doing a home visit.” “Do you have the information you need?” “I’m just doing a wellness check to see how you guys are doing.” [phone rings] “All right, so the problem that I’m noticing, Mom, is that right now, out of 20 days of school, we have 15 days of absence.” [busy signal] “Thank you, ma’am.” “That way at the corner.” “Yes, ma’am.” “I was just calling to check on you because I miss you so much.” “It’s OK.” “Were you able to get into the Google Classroom this morning?” “Mm-hmm.” “And when you have a hard time going on, are you going to call me?” “Yep.” “OK. Have a good afternoon, OK?” “You too.” “OK, bye-bye.” “Bye-bye.” “That — that’s what I needed. I needed to hear a child’s voice, just saying I was able to do it. I’m O.K. now.” [laughs] “Repeat after me. Be, ba, buh. Good.” “Without education, our children are lost. The pandemic just made it more evident.” “No. 1.” “Hat.” “No. 2.” “Mat.” “Good job. Chicken wing.” “Jah.” “It looks like a L, that’s absolutely right.” “I see the amount of growth the children have in just this short amount of time. The teachers are doing incredible work.” “Now spell the word see.” “S-E-E. Hey, I think I’m learning how to read.” “So really quick, right? Last week, you spoke about how you were angry. OK.” “Yeah. Like I got anger management. ” “Do you have anger issues?” “Yeah, because —” “And —” “Because my mom took me to the doctor because I just started, like, fighting the walls.” “What happens when you’re happy?” “I’m happy right now so just, so I just be calm and not mad. “You’re calm and relaxed, right? You’re smiling.” “Mm-hmm.” “You smile when you’re angry? No. You see how your face is scrunched up? That takes work, right? But you know what you have to learn?” “Self-control.” “Ahhhh. And what are some of the things that you can do?” “I will run 20 laps.” “You know how to do push-ups?” “Mm-hmm.” “How many can you do?” “I can do 50.” “Let me see — 34, 35, 36, 37. 30, that’s, uh, 37. [laughs] I’m very impressed, my man. So it seems like you have some coping skills that help you de-escalate.” “Yep. When I take deep breaths, I don’t get mad. “OK.” “I’m going to practice how to stop being angry.” “Good. I think that’s a awesome idea.” “I’ve been having a good week. I had a good day five days straight.” “That’s what I’m talking about. That’s awesomeness. Let’s make it seven days straight.” “This is going to blow your mind out.” It’s from the chancellor’s office. We’re going to go bananas now when you read what the chancellor has decided to do. It goes against what they had originally said.” “This is crazy.” “If they all opt in, we’re done, because where will we put these children?” “We don’t have enough staff.” “We don’t have enough teachers in the building.” “And if the room capacity stays the same, that’s crazy.” “I’m going to take them home. I’m going to take the kids home and teach them.” “I wanted you guys to know so you could start thinking about it this week, because we got until next week.” “Turn the page. Who else is done?” “Me!” “Can you read the whole book for us?” “Yes.” “You can? So, boys and girls, let’s listen to Kasiyah read the book, OK?” “I am helping.” “I am folding the laundry. I am recycling the newspaper.” “Wow, super reader! Round of applause, boys and girls! That was awesome.” “I’m so proud of you. Good job!” Announcer: “In the city, the positivity rate is climbing closer to 3 percent, threatening the nation’s largest school system. “So right now, I’m calling the Situation Room.” “Uh-huh.” “So, more than likely, pre-K will be shut. And they may possibly close the school.” “Yes, hi, I’m calling to report that I have two cases in the school, positive cases.” “Yeah, it’s really picking up. It’s really getting bad over here. Yep, OK.” “Well, teachers are a little anxious right now. I can see it in their eyes.” “It’s a scary thought to think that we’ll be going remote soon, because we know that our kids are finally beginning to show progress.” “So the building’s closed tomorrow, 24 hours. They’re going to do a whole check of everything. They’re not playing around. They shut the building. Superintendent already called me.” “He’s coming down?” “Yeah, he’s coming down, because the way the guy’s describing it, he’s like — he says, you’re lucky you only have two cases. I have schools with 15 to 20.” “So I’m distraught having this choice. But should I be nervous?” “No. Why should you be nervous, Alex?” “Oh I kind of —” “The world is the way it is everywhere.” “They have class tomorrow.” “Oh, no, you’re just virtual, that’s all. You’re safer at home, right?” “So — sorry. Like I said, it’s my dad. He has Parkinson’s, and he’s 70 years old.” “Yep.” “And I don’t want to play games with that.” “Yeah, that’s why — that’s why the building is being shut tomorrow, for safety.” “OK, I’m sorry to bring my drama here, sir. It’s just —” “No, this ain’t no drama. It’s real. It’s facts.” “We’re all in the same place, Alex.” “Yeah.” “Jahkeem, how was your day today? Tell me something you learned today.” “My times tables.” “Your times tables. Remember, no school tomorrow. And give that letter to mommy, OK? We put a letter in your bookbag. OK, there’s no school tomorrow.” “Y’all gotta clean the school?” “Yeah.” “Yeah. “Y’all are killing me here.” “That’s it.” “It’s been a tough start to the school year. Every minute, every moment that we have to breathe, something else is coming.” Announcer: “Lots of confusion among the parents and teachers alike after New York City closed schools, once again, on Wednesday.” [beep] [beep] [beep] “It’s like you’re in the ocean, and you’re ready to catch that deep breath. And then here comes another wave, and another wave and another wave. At a certain point, you need to get out of the water.” “How are you guys feeling?” “Good.” “You’re feeling good?” Announcer: “Some New York City school students returned to the classroom —” “— expressing relief and frustration over the mayor’s announcement that in-person learning will resume.” “It’s going to take some time for us to fully understand the negative impact that this pandemic has had on our children. Nothing, nothing will ever replace the children being in the building with all the resources we have here, and the love and support of my teachers.”

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