As NYC Fight Over School Closing Reignites, Mom Speaks on Daughter’s Year of Public School Learning

Tags: Currents Brooklyn, NY, Catholic Education, Catholic High Schools, Catholic Schools, Crux, Faith, Public School, Public schools, Queens, NY

By Emily Drooby

Remote learning has become a big part of life for 1st grader, Celine and her mother, Judith Herrera.

After three years in Catholic school, Judith wanted to try out the New York City public school system after hearing a lot of positive things from her friends.

“We just kind of wanted to see the difference,” said Currents News.

However, due to COVID-19 restrictions and space limitations, Celine only attended in-person classes about ten times during the fall semester.

Judith said it was hard on Celine. “She never really formed the bonds that she had at St. Stephens,” she said referring to Celine’s former school.

This fall, many of the city’s public-school families have had to deal with constant uncertainty.

First their first day was pushed back twice, then just weeks after kids finally got into the buildings, they were shut down again.

In late December, it seemed to be settling down. However, now the city’s positivity rate is creeping back up.

As of Wednesday Ja. 5, over 130 public school buildings were closed because of cases or exposure.

At the same time, the fight over closing schools has reignited. Both Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio recently said they don’t believe they will automatically shut down schools if the city positivity rate tops 9%. Originally this was thought to be the plan.

The United Federation of Teachers is taking the opposite side, calling for a total shut down if the rate gets that high, no matter what individual school’s infection rates are. This means a school with a low infection rate would shut down, just like a school with a high infection rate.

The new fight has added more uncertainty into the lives of parents across the city.

“You can’t plan when you need a sitter, how you arrange your work days,” Judith explained. “On a dime it changes, and everything that you just set up for two weeks has gone. Because now school’s on a different day. Now school is at home.”

Judith had to take a leave of absence from work. She feels grateful to her employers for not only letting her, but for being so understanding and supportive.

She also praises her daughter’s public-school staff for keeping parents well-informed and dealing with sudden changes.

However, back in October her and her husband decided to move Celine back to her old Catholic school, Saint Stephen of Hungary in Manhattan. Right now, the school is open five days a week for in-person learning. A remote option is also available if necessary.

She’s set to start in February, the busy school’s first opening.

“This has been so difficult for her and for her to be going back to an environment that she already knows, already loves,” said Judith.

She is excited for the stability, but also to have the chance to bring faith back into her daughter’s school experience.

“It’ll be great to just get back to just that faith and value system that we so believed in and thrived in for the year she was there before,” she said.