Bronx Science 10th grader Roni Silverman said that when she returned from winter break she noticed many students and teachers at her school were out sick.
"A lot of us are coasting right now, especially since we're supposed to have midterms, but they were canceled because too many people were not in attendance," Roni said. "So I think that everyone's trying their best to keep up but if our teachers aren't here, what are we supposed to do — learn ourselves?"
Roni said that when a teacher doesn't show up, she and her classmates get sent to the auditorium.
"One day since they had too many teachers absent, I actually just sat on the stage with my class because they didn't have enough space in the seats for us to sit," she said.
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The DOE did not provide attendance rates for teachers.
A group of teachers who want the option of going back to remote instruction held a protest outside the office of the United Federation of Teachers. The UFT, Mayor Eric Adams, and the new schools chancellor agree public schools should remain open. The mayor said he believes public schools are the safest place for children to be during this pandemic.
Annie Tan, who teaches special education at an elementary school in Sunset Park, doesn't agree.
"With more than half my class out today, it doesn't make sense why I cannot use remote options to teach my students who are mostly out of the class today," Tan said.
Daniela Jampel, who has a child in the pre-K program, founded a group that supports schools staying open. She said that pivoting to remote learning would send a bad message about the commitment to in-person school.
"Right now, I understand that we are in an unprecedented wave of cases. And I do appreciate that there are staff shortages — for example, I had to deal with the bus driver shortage where I had to take my child to school back and forth every day, and it was inconvenient," Jampel said. "But at the same time, I am so much happier to deal with that temporary inconvenience than I would be to deal with an all-remote system."