New Yorkers took another step into the unknown today as Governor Cuomo announced a complete shutdown of all non-essential businesses. It’s not quite “shelter in place," but it does mean more closed shops, more people out of work, a greater strain on New York City’s homeless shelters and more insecurity for the children forced to live in them. And that worries education advocates.
“Our concerns are not in short supply,” said Raysa S. Rodriguez, Associate Executive Director for Policy and Advocacy for the Citizen’s Committee for Children New York. “For students in New York City schools, one in 10 doesn’t have a home of their own. Students who are doubled up or more in their own spaces fare much worse than their peers who are in their own houses when it comes to things like performance, grades and graduation rates.”
On Monday, the city’s public school students will switch to remote learning, requiring technology like laptops and the internet, which can be in short supply for kids living in shelters or without fixed housing. And that means students already facing obstacles risk falling even farther behind. Mayor Bill De Blasio said the education system is working with Apple to provide necessary technology to all students.
“The city is trying its best to cope with this crisis,” said Rodriguez. “Right now there are more questions than answers. Technology and laptops are getting to students with the greatest need, but we don’t know if it’s effective.”
400 schools are open where students can pick up grab-and-go meals, and there are care centers for children of first responders and health care workers, but the CCC hopes they will soon be able to accommodate all students in need. Rodriguez says, those centers will be “incredibly important to students who are homeless.”
With several cases of Coronavirus confirmed in the shelter system, homeless students may be forced to move. And while she stresses that the health and safety of those students must be a priority, she says it cannot come at the expense of their education. “While we’re taking care of securing their health and safety, we must also ensure that educational gains are not put to the wayside,” she said. “Our responsibility doesn’t stop with safety and health.”