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August 23, 2021 | NY DAILY NEWS

 

As the nation looks ahead towards the fall and with the delta variant swirling, fears abound about yet another disrupted schoolyear. Parents and caregivers are understandably concerned about safety, educators and leaders everywhere have a herculean task of supporting students as the pandemic continues, and the socio-emotional needs for children nationwide have never been greater.

But there is an answer: for communities to get vaccinated.

Since the pandemic began, all schools, whether private, public or charter, had to overcome extraordinary obstacles. From closing the digital divide, to delivering meals to families, to finding innovative approaches for instruction, to providing a new level of support for our communities, educators and staff rose to the occasion.

They put students first in a time of national crisis.

But as we prepare for a new year, we know that the delta variant is spreading across America. Far more transmittable, it could jeopardize teaching and learning the months ahead, with impacts that could be felt for years to come.

And after an extraordinarily challenging 18 months, students across New York City can ill-afford to miss instructional time. They need and deserve a full return to normal for their academic growth.

How do we get there despite the delta variant? By embracing the COVID-19 vaccines.

Children, parents, educators are counting on safe classrooms, via high vaccination rates. Because all children — regardless of the type of public school they attend — deserve to be in classrooms five days per week, uninterrupted.

But we must boost our vaccination rates to get there.

Currently, the Bronx trails New York City in vaccination rates, with less than half of the borough having gotten its shot. We also understand that questions from those nervous about the vaccine abound. Is the vaccine safe to take? Will there be any long-term side effects? If my child has asthma, will she or he have a negative reaction to the vaccine? What if I have already had COVID, should I still get a shot?

There are important questions that parents, teachers and communities have about the vaccine and its safety. Everyone should consult their medical provider to get the answers, seek the facts and learn the science. And after getting those facts, we urge everyone to get their shot.

It’s critical to all children’s academic recovery both in New York City and across the country. How do we know?

Two new reports spotlight the crisis. NWEA, a nonprofit organization that provides academic assessments, spotlight used data from about 5.5 million public school students in third-through-eighth grades who took the NWEA’s tests during the 2020-21 schoolyear and compared their performance to similar students in 2019. The findings? In math, Latino third-graders performed 17 percentage points lower in spring 2021 compared with the typical achievement of Latino third graders in the spring of 2019. For Black students, the drop was 15 percentage points. Reading saw similarly alarming findings.

According to a report by the consulting firm McKinsey, by the end of the school year, students were, on average, four to five months behind where students have typically been in the past, with deep impacts on the most vulnerable students, in both reading and math.

We are, as a nation, trying to come back from the pandemic, and it’s incumbent upon all of us to support children in our neighborhoods with the tools they need to overcome the academic roadblocks that have been put in their way since the pandemic first arrived. And with the delta variant spreading across the country quickly, it will be more important than ever to maximize in-person learning time for our kids.

That’s why we’re encouraging everyone, not just in our school communities, but also across the five boroughs, to learn the facts, seek answers and get their shot. A generation of children are depending on it.

Bradshaw is CEO of Public Prep Network and Noah is founding principal of Urban Assembly Charter School for Computer Science.