Teachers, parents voice outrage on ‘chaotic’ commute to school
“I saw several kids fall while attempting to walk through the mountains of snow on every corner,” said teacher Elizabeth Gutierrez.
The city’s decision to keep schools open on Monday was met with anger by parents and teachers who believe safety should have been taken into account before a decision was made.
According to Mayor Bill de Blasio, the city decided to open schools because based on how highways and major streets looked after snow removal it was believed that conditions were safe enough.
He also added that the city owed it to the students not to keep them out of school and also help parents who would need to have their children somewhere while they worked.
“I’m convinced it was the right one,” de Blasio said about the decision.
All schools and after school activities were expected to go on a regular schedule on Monday and field trips using school buses were cancelled.
Based on data from the DOE, 74.18 percent of students attended school on Monday — a number typical for days immediately following massive storms. On average, attendance on most days is around 90 to 91 percent.
The Department of Education was working with bus companies and the Sanitation Department to ensure students were transported safely to and from school.
However for teachers and parents, the decision was completely off and many said the commute to the schools was “chaotic” and “horrible.”
Michelle Rojas, a mother of two and school response team coordinator for The Child Center of NY, said she decided to keep her children home because the conditions outside were just too dangerous.
“I feel that it is not safe at all,” she said. “The streets by the schools are not clean, they’re not safe. The sidewalks are full of ice and the buses were so late.”
Soo Lee, a teacher at Queens Centers for Progress – Apple Tree Pre-school, said her commute from New Hyde Park was a mess and she couldn’t understand how people were making it to work.
“It was chaotic,” said Soo Lee. “It was horrible. The streets are extremely narrow because of the snow and there is no parking.”
Only 3 out of 12 of her students came to school — making her class the one with the fewest attendance — and she had to combine classes with another teacher who also had low attendance.
She also said that it was difficult for buses to drop off students, especially those in wheelchairs, because most of the street had snow piled up.
“They should have just closed and took this day off so they can clean up as much as possible,” Lee said.
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For Elizabeth Gutierrez, traveling from her home in Jackson Heights to Thomas Edison High School in Jamaica was a problem and she witness many students struggling on their way to class.
"The commute was awful. I saw several kids fall while attempting to walk through the mountains of snow on every corner,” Elizabeth Gutierrez said. “Especially where I live in Jackson Heights, they barely cleaned so it was a nightmare.”
She added that in her second period class 20 out of 34 students were absent, while her third period class 12 students didn’t come in.
For another Queens teacher, who asked to not be named, said she wished the DOE would have at least delayed opening the schools on Monday to allow teachers — especially those who commute from Long Island — to make their way to school.
She said in her school 14 teachers were absent and although she made it in on time, she was disappointed on the city’s response.
“When I finally got on a train, we made every local stop and we were held on the track due to the conditions which caused me to miss almost half a day of work,” she said. “I think safety is something that should be taken more seriously in times like these and that a delayed opening would have been appropriate.
An online petition was also started on Sunday night demanding schools be closed saying teachers and students deserve safety.
“This is our life, and it’s time to protect and care for our staff, parents and children,” a description on the petition said. “It’s time to stop bad government decision.
As of Monday afternoon, the petition had garnered 43,519 supporters and signatures continued to trickle in even after the school day had come to an end.