Testimony of Stephanie King to the BOE, July 23, 2020

Good afternoon. My name is Stephanie King and I am the president of Kearny Friends at Gen. Philip Kearny Elementary School in Northern Liberties.

I am here to speak out against the reopening plan in general, and specifically, the Digital Academy. Respectfully, the Digital Academy plan is terrible. How will you keep students connected to their school communities? Who will the teachers be? What will the instruction look like? How can parents be expected to commit to an option with these questions unanswered?

But more importantly: why are you putting parents through this? Why are we wasting our time on this absurd plan when we could be planning to start everybody online, with our own schools & teachers? We could have been spending this time improving online instruction and increasing internet access. We could have made a plan like what others suggested earlier, using each school’s own teachers. We could have been building up our school communities and preparing them for the coming year, instead of watching all the middle-class white parents setting up “pods” and everyone else wringing their hands while we wait to see if you’re going to force us to throw our kids and teachers into a volcano. 

You are forcing parents into an impossible choice, one that will decimate their neighborhood school communities such that there will be no “community” left. Kearny has teachers torn away from it through leveling, so I can only assume that we will lose teachers to the Digital Academy. However, our school has already been so thoroughly leveled that in grades 2, 6, 7, & 8 we have been reduced to one homeroom of students, making it impossible to social distance in those classrooms or provide the students with strong and consistent instruction both asynchronous and synchronous learning. We already have to fundraise for paper, so I have no faith that the mask & sanitizer offered by the district will be sufficient.I also didn’t hear the part where internet would be provided free of charge to all Digital Academy students. So this choice is not really a choice at all for some families. I have spent hours upon hours trying to get families at our school online, doing your job for you. Some managed to get Internet Essentials, while others were still excluded for unpaid bills or documentation. Now they will be forced to send their child to in-person instruction regardless of whether the student or a family member has a serious health consideration. 

I am sure a great number of people worked hard on the Digital Academy plan. But you seem to forget that parents and students love their schools and their teachers. We don’t want to send them off to die, and we don’t want some knockoff cyber charter. Please do the right thing and start everybody online and keep us and our schools alive.