Keeping Families Safe as Schools Reopen
Monday, March 15, 2021
ALBANY, N.Y. -- The push is on at both the state and national levels to reopen schools, but will it be done in a way that ensures all families, including multigenerational households, stay safe.
There are more than 300,000 multigenerational households in New York.
Although they are most often found in Hispanic and Asian families, the number of households that include grandparents is growing across all communities, which means older, more vulnerable adults could be at risk as children return to classrooms.
Andy Pallotta, president of New York State United Teachers, said COVID-19 testing is a critical part of reopening schools, but of the state's 700 school districts, only 57 are currently doing regular testing.
"We want to see that as part of the process going forward," Pallotta urged. "An aggressive campaign of testing, and this way we can stop any spread in the community from coming into the schools."
He emphasized all communities need to know the precautions needed to keep students, teachers and families safe, and be satisfied that those steps are being taken.
Jaia Peterson Lent, deputy executive director of the National Center on Grandfamilies, pointed out grandparents in multigenerational households often play critical roles in helping families get through the restrictions brought on by the COVID pandemic.
"Families may be choosing to live together because they are facing economic challenges, or because they need help with child care," Lent explained. "Certainly, families' lives in terms of child-care needs have been turned upside down during the pandemic."
She added families may be hesitant about sending children back to school if they feel it would put a grandparent who is their only option for child care at risk of COVID.
Data suggests many children doing remote learning are keeping up with reading, but math skills have suffered.
And access to technology, such as broadband internet, puts some communities at a disadvantage.
Pallotta said that is why returning to classrooms is important.
"We believe there's no better way of educating a child than having it in person," Pallotta asserted. "We also say, in the same breath, that it has to be done safely."
The federal Department of Health and Human Services announced last week it will give out $650 million in grants to help schools implement COVID testing.
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