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It’s Thursday. Hanukkah begins tonight.
Weather: Mostly sunny, with a high near 50.
Alternate-side parking: In effect until Dec. 25 (Christmas).
Before Thanksgiving, New York City closed its public schools because of rising coronavirus cases. Then, in a sudden reversal, it reopened elementary schools on Monday.
Families have struggled to cope with the abrupt changes in policy. “All this back and forth has not been good for them,” one parent, Laura Espinoza, said about her 6-year-old twins, who attend school in Brooklyn.
For months, Mayor Bill de Blasio has been adamant about opening schools, saying that public school parents, who are overwhelmingly low-income people of color, had demanded that classrooms be reopened. But this week, 12,000 more white students returned to buildings than Black students, undermining his argument.
“It’s the perfect storm of marginalization,” Jamila Newman of TNTP, a nonprofit that provides consulting services for school districts, told my colleague Eliza Shapiro, who covers education. “That’s why there is the need to demand stronger instruction remotely.”
Educators, parents and advocates are worried because remote learning has numerous limitations. For instance, many children, including some in homeless shelters, still lack access to devices and reliable Wi-Fi.
“The city treats remote like an afterthought,” said Erika Kendall, whose children are learning from home.
I recently spoke with Ms. Shapiro about the city’s decisions. Here is a lightly edited version of our conversation:
Q: Why did Mr. de Blasio reverse his vow to keep schools closed when the city hit a seven-day average positivity rate of 3 percent?
A: The mayor faced a lot of blowback for his decision to close schools at 3 percent, which some felt to be arbitrary. One reason he can reopen schools now is that there will be significantly increased testing in schools — random weekly testing, instead of monthly — and there are relatively few kids back in school buildings anyway.
Most students of color are learning from home, so why hasn’t the city done more to bolster online learning?
We are clearly seeing trust issues between Black and Asian-American families and the city over school reopening.
The mayor has been clear that his administration has focused most of its resources on reopening school buildings rather than on improving online learning because he — and many experts — believe that remote learning is inherently inferior.
Is another systemwide closure possible?
Schools could close again if the state’s average positivity number reaches 9 percent, but it’s not entirely clear. (The state requires schools to close across an entire region if the seven-day test positivity rate in that region reaches 9 percent.)
A Chipotle restaurant in Upper Manhattan closed after rats chewed through wires and bit employees. [New York Post]
And finally: From the archives
Mayor William O’Dwyer of New York got a doughnut for his donation to the Salvation Army on Jan. 19, 1948. That day, with members of the media in tow, the mayor also contributed to the March of Dimes campaign, The Times reported.
O’Dwyer, the city’s 100th mayor, officially kicked off the Salvation Army’s “Donuts for Donors” campaign that year to support the organization’s 60 centers in the city, according to The Times. The roving canteen was staffed by Salvation Army “lassies,” doling out doughnuts to everyone who donated.
At a ceremony in front of City Hall, where photographers were at the ready, the mayor dropped coins in a collection box for a photo op. When they asked him to pose for his 10th picture that day, O’Dwyer discovered that he had run out of money.
This year, the Salvation Army’s annual Christmas fund-raiser has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. For the first time in 130 years, the campaign — known for cheerful Santas with bells and red kettles in malls and on sidewalks — began in September because of declining foot traffic and because fewer people are carrying cash.
It’s Thursday — give what you can.
Metropolitan Diary: 125 Washington Place
For the first 22 years of my life, I lived with my parents and my older sister in apartments in Flushing.
When it was time to move into a place of my own, I found a very large, reasonably priced studio in Forest Hills and moved there. Then, after five years in Forest Hills, it was time to make a move to “the city.”
After a short search, I found an apartment on 125 Washington Place. It had one bedroom, one bathroom, an eat-in kitchen and a living room with a large window. The West Village location was ideal.
Finding the apartment was very exciting, and I wanted to tell my parents all about it. When I called them, my father, who was quite reserved, answered.
I told him that I had found a place and gave him the address. He began to laugh.
It was not a normal reaction for him, so I asked why he was laughing.
He told me that in 1925, he, my aunt, my grandfather and my grandmother had immigrated to New York from Russia. Their first apartment had been at 118 Washington Place.
Look straight out my living room window into the apartment house across the way, my father said, and I would be able to see into what had been his first home in the city.
— Lorraine Rosenblatt
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