I think you owe us an apology. An apology to our students, parents and teachers/staff. Honestly, I think we need an apology and better explanation than the one you gave on Monday. Schools were out for two weeks, COVID numbers were on the rise before the break, and even last week you met and decided to allow schools to reopen in January. Yet, you wait until the afternoon of January 4th, once some students had already returned to campus and schools had spent hours prepping to welcome students back into the buildings, to choose to shut everything down. No forewarning, no whispers, no Governor mandates in place, you just shut.it.down.
This is not March 2020.
We are not in the first days of the pandemic when everything was unknown and the vast majority of jobs moved to remote operations. This is January 2021 where parents have just completed holiday vacation to keep students home and now you give working parents HOURS to figure out childcare and virtual learning for their children. Do you know how many parents had to make the difficult call to their bosses on Monday night to say they would not be able to make it into work on Tuesday?
I’m sure you received some pressure from teacher unions and maybe some Charter schools, but did you ever think about hardworking school employees who could have used a bigger lead time to adjust to this change? If you are committed to the success of ALL students, why didn’t you give schools time to actually be successful? Was it really so difficult to get this group of newly ELECTED board members to come together on Saturday or Sunday and make a decision once you felt the growing pressure to shut down? It’s obvious that it was the political pressure that caused the sudden change and not the incremental change in COVID numbers, right?
Employers are growing tired of extending grace and many aren’t offering COVID pay, not to mention federal FMLA revisions were not extended into 2021. Parents have fewer options in childcare and work from home availability, and you pull the rug from under them just hours before they are supposed to send their children back on campus. We saw the frustrations of Jefferson Parish parents in August when the first day of school was pushed back numerous times and you didn’t think for a minute to protect Orleans Parish parents from the same frustration?
You were not the ones who received the various phone calls on your personal cellphones all evening with parents who are terrified of returning to virtual. You aren’t the ones working tirelessly to completely revamp staffing, schedules, hunt down supplies and prep materials to ensure student success until 10:00 pm. Schools can’t afford to lose any more learning minutes, so the success of this shift is only possible through numerous unpaid work hours of school personnel. Do you have plans to offer extra mental health counseling for the staff members suffering from PTSD thinking about how many times they were yelled at by parents who experienced technical issues after four visits to the school office?
Yet, you stand there and use photo ops of handing out school supplies and Chromebooks while not one of you have stepped into the hallways of our schools to actually lend a helping hand. You haven’t offered a parent line to offer technical support or utilized your employees to pass out hotspots or computers or bagged lunches to families. You ask schools to put their staff’s health on the line for the sake of students but you haven’t opened one Parent Resource Center to ensure that families have equity in school choice and the OneApp application process. But, you can determine our fate on a Zoom on a Monday afternoon with no warning. NOLA-PS, we expected better. In fact, we deserve better.
I sure hope all of my fellow Orleans Parish residents remember this when it’s time for re-election…
The Frustrated Parents and Teachers of New Orleans