Chants of "Classrooms not Class Zooms" and "Classrooms are essential" could be heard through the crowd of roughly 50 parents and teachers from across Long Island that gathered on Franklin Avenue in Mineola to express their desire for schools to reopen on time in September.
The “Rally To Reopen Schools in September” took place on June 20 in front of the Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative building. The rally was organized by East Setauket residents Maria Sanders, Amalia Makroglou and Aristea Lucas.
The three organizers are mothers of children in school and Lucas works as an English as a second language teacher in the Sachem Central School District. Sanders noted that they chose Mineola as the rally location because it served as a “middle ground” location for attendees.
“Back in April, Cuomo said that the schools would be closed for two weeks to help our medical infrastructure and flatten the curve,” Sanders said. “Now we're in June and were still questioning September. Cuomo needs to act and tell us that schools need to open in September.”
Gov. Cuomo initially made the decision to close all schools in the state on Mar. 16 for two weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic. The two weeks were then extended by Cuomo, as he eventually announced on May 1 that all schools would stay closed for the remainder of the school year. Guidelines on reopening schools have yet to be released by the state.
Oceanside residents Steven and Randi Weinberg attended the rally with their two children, Noah and Stella. Randi noted how Noah, who is going into second grade in the Oceanside School District, hasn’t enjoyed the distant learning experience.
“He didn't enjoy looking at the screen to learn and then having to turn to me for guidance,” she said. "I’m not a teacher, I’m trained to do something else. There’s also that boundary between being a mom and being a teacher that has been hard for me to follow.”
The teachers in attendance included Carolyn Schwartz, a Rockville Centre resident who teaches English in the Baldwin School District. Schwartz believes that a social divide will occur if distant learning continues.
“You are creating the largest divide on the planet if this keeps going on,” Schwartz said of distant learning. “For me as a middle class mother, I can get my child a tutor. Others may not be able to do that depending on their financial circumstances and that may cause their children to fall behind in school due to that.”
The dissatisfaction with distant learning extends beyond grade-level for some such as East Meadow resident Marie Lombardi who noted that her 20-year-old son decided to continue college outside of the state due to the uncertainty on if educational institutions in the state will reopen in September.
“My son just finished at Nassau Community and was set to attend Hofstra,” Lombardi said. “He decided to enroll at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut instead due to the unknown future for school’s in New York.”
Sanders added that the importance of school is beyond education. “I recognize that some school districts have better distant learning than others, but school is much more than learning ABC’s and one, two, three’s,” she said. “It’s social learning, emotional learning and building relationships. We can’t teach them all of this in the comfort of our kitchens.”