New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the first NYC public school closures on Thursday, adding to the over 1,000 K-12 schools across the country that are closing or moving to online education to help control the spread of the coronavirus. Equity is a large concern in school closures for those students who depend on subsidized breakfasts and lunches and also may not have a supportive environment outside of school.
Jamila Michener is an assistant professor of government at Cornell University and an expert on poverty and racial inequality. She says during times of public health crisis the consequences of inequalities surface and it’s going to be a huge challenge to support K-12 students facing school closures at home and also in their communities.
A video version of Michener’s comments can be viewed and downloaded here: https://cornell.box.com/v/MichenerCOVID-19.
“Schools, especially for students who are marginalized – who come from low income households or who have unstable homes – are sometimes the most stabilizing institutions in those students’ lives. There are the basic material resources, for example, school is a place where you can eat, but there’s also the mental, psychological and emotional aspect as well. School is a place where students can engage adults who are healthy and who care. School is a place where students have stability and safety.
“I think for those students, in the event of school closures, we are going to have to really think carefully about how to provide support either in their homes or in the community to make sure that they’re getting help, because it’s going to be a huge challenge.
“I think any public health crisis reveals tensions and cracks in our society. It especially reveals the consequences of gross inequalities and we have plenty of those in the U.S. Having a public health crisis like this unfold is going to bring all of those inequalities to the surface. We can’t just deal with the public health crisis itself. We also have to deal with the inequality, the difficulties and challenges it brings, especially for children and for lots of other community groups as well.”