Parents, students protest outside City Hall over NYC school closures

Dozens of Big Apple parents and students turned out Thursday to protest against the coronavirus-triggered closure of New York City schools.

Adults and youngsters alike chanted “Kids back in school!” and “Schools are safe!” outside City Hall, a day after Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered the shutdown of in-person learning due to an uptick in coronavirus infections across the city.

Some held handmade signs with phrases like, “I need my teachers,” “Keep NYC schools open” and “Closing public schools = more inequalities.”

“I’m sick and tired of sitting on the sidelines while other people decide whether my children could go to school the next day,” said protest organizer Daniela Jampel, has two children signed up for blended, in-school learning.

Jampel and other parents started a petition — signed by 12,000 city public school parents — to demand that de Blasio swiftly reopen Big Apple schools.

During the protest, they delivered that petition to a mayoral aide, who they said promised to get it to de Blasio.

“We are here to tell de Blasio that we are the parents and we demand that schools reopen as quickly as possible,” Jampel said.

On Wednesday, de Blasio announced that the city hit a 3 percent COVID-19 infection rate on a rolling seven-day average — a metric his administration established over the summer as the threshold to close in-person learning.

Parents and children gather in front of New York's City Hall to  protest the closing of public schools today.
Parents and children gather in front of New York City Hall to protest the closing of public schools today.

The switch to 100 percent remote learning beginning Thursday was ordered even though, according to the Department of Education, random internal testing of students and staffers in school buildings consistently yielded minimal infection rates hovering around 0.19 percent.

The parents’ petition, which calls for a meeting with the mayor, demands that de Blasio abandon the “arbitrary and outdated 3 percent [threshold] to shut down schools,” Jampel said.

Pointing to City Hall, Manhattan public school parent Mia-Eisner-Gryberg said, “There is no substitute for in-person learning.”

Fifth-grader Romaine Guinchard, who attended the rally said, “Schools should be opened. Kids are not going to learn without schools.”

“We feel like the mayor doesn’t want schools to be opened,” said the student, who attends PS 58 in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.

Following the rally at City Hall, some protesters headed to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Midtown office in an attempt to hand-deliver him the same petition, but the “governor’s office categorically refused to send anyone down,” Jampel said.

“I’m incredibly frustrated about it. I have 12,000 people behind me who are asking for a seat at the table,” she said. “We are just asking for a seat at the table when the decisions to reopen schools are made, when they reopen, how they will reopen and how they will shut down again.”

Lura Espinoza, a mom from Sunset Park, Brooklyn, whose special-needs twin boys attend first grade at PS 24, said she’s “tired” and “exhausted.”

“They need to pay attention to our kids. They need to have a plan for our kids,” she said.

Espinoza explained that her children do not benefit from remote schooling.

“They do in-school learning where they have a therapist,” she said. “I am frustrated because remote learning doesn’t work for my twins. They need to be in school. I can’t do it alone at home.”

The mom accused de Blasio and Cuomo of wanting to “kill our children’s future.”