FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM DECEMBER 24, 2020 • 2020 YEAR IN REVIEW • THE QUEENS COURIER 19
2020 year in review
during the COVID-19 pandemic
Forest Hills mother with a daughter with
autism told QNS.
Th e height of the pandemic caused
many New Yorkers to feel hopeless as
cases and deaths surged, while people’s
everyday life underwent abrupt changes
in order to fend off even more heartache.
But there were bright moments sprinkled
along the darkness, and acts of kindness
became more of the norm. Teachers
stepped up to the challenges ahead, with
some recognized for their eff orts to bring
joy and lighthearted fun to their students,
such as Andrea Feldman, teacher at I.S.
145Q in Jackson Heights, and Tom Carty,
principal of P.S./I.S. 49 in Middle Village,
who sang to their students to keep them
“Our kids are probably going through
a mix of emotions from being worried,
curious, scared and nervous about what
lies ahead,” said Feldman. “If my silly
songs and jokes can help put a smile on
their faces and get through this, that’s the
most important thing to me.”
To respond to childcare needs, the
DOE established more than 100 Regional
Enrichment Centers (REC) where children
ofemergency and essential workers
could stay during the COVID-19 health
Photo by Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Offi ce Photo courtesy of Rachel Sokol
In Queens, one of those RECs was
located at P.S./I.S. 128 in Middle Village.
Chancellor Carranza and fi rst lady
Chirlane McCray paid a visit to the facility
in June, which gave a fi rst look at
what schools may look like once buildings
reopened — children and staff wore
masks all day, they had to get their temperature
checked at the door, and indicators
were placed on the fl oor and desks to
maintain six feet distance.
As COVID cases decreased and Gov.
Andrew Cuomo’s re-opening plan ensued
— bringing back temporarily dormant
jobs and businesses — parents and educators
anxiously waited to hear a plan for the
city’s new public school.
De Blasio and Carranza introduced their
plan, which included random COVID
tests for students and school staff as well
as two diff erent learning models: blended
learning, a mix of in-person and fully
remote school days, or fully remote learning.
Th e city promised 100,000 childcare
seats for students in blended learning,
with less than 30,000 of those seats
slated to open by the beginning of the
school year. Meanwhile, Catholic schools
in Brooklyn and Queens mostly prepared
for in-person learning.
But in the weeks before the original
start to the school year in September,
teachers and school staff across the city
and Queens — some protests took place
in Jackson Heights and Bayside — called
for a delay in reopening school buildings,
with safety and staff shortages as their
Aft er negotiations with the United
Federation of Teachers (UFT), the mayor
announced that schools would open in
phases and provide more safety measures
for each school community.
Students were still getting into the
groove of the new way of learning, many
missing in-person learning and activities.
But some found creative ways to get
kids out into their communities, such as
Maspeth High School’s “Maspeth Making
a Diff erence” club in which students
helped clean up their surrounding neighborhood.
But blended learning came with some
confusion for some Queens parents. In
October, parents at P.S.128 protested over
what they said was a lack of live instruction
and clear communication from the
“Why didn’t they organize this better?
Be truthful to the parents,” one parent,
who is an essential worker and asked
to remain anonymous, told QNS at the
time. “If you decided blended, the rest of
the week your child would not have a live
instruction. Explain it fi rst, then we could
have organized this diff erently.”
A DOE spokesperson said the school
was working on getting the needed staff
to ramp up live instruction.
More than 335,000 families have opted
into blended learning aft er the city’s second
opt-in period in November. Optin
periods were originally meant to take
place in a quarterly basis, but that plan
was scratched aft er the city reported lower
than expected in-person class enrollment
But as a second wave threatened to fully
shut down schools once again, de Blasio
announced schools would close for two
weeks prior to the Th anksgiving holiday.
While many parents argued the closure,
the decision was based on the city reaching
a 3 percent infection rate, a threshold
previously negotiated with the UFT to
ensure school safety.
More than 800 schools returned to inperson
learning in the second week of
December, with the DOE establishing
more weekly COVID testing and a map of
schools that is updated on a weekly basis,
showcasing the buildings and classrooms
that have closed due to COVID cases. Just
a few days aft er schools reopened, nine
schools in Queens were closed again due
to COVID cases.
Th e city later announced a new plan to
address the “COVID achievement gap”
for public school students, and rolled out
plans to overhaul the admissions process
for the upcoming school year, including
the elimination of screenings for middle
school students, among other changes.
With two COVID-19 vaccines now
approved by the FDA and their distribution
currently underway as COVID infection
rates and hospitalizations see a resurgence,
there is no telling what other transformations
New York City’s school system
will undergo in 2021.
Photo by By Angélica Acevedo