An already chaotic start to the school year took another twist hours before classes began Wednesday when the city Department of Education announced that kids signed up for blended learning aren’t guaranteed real-time virtual learning.
After previously assuring parents that all of the city’s 1.1 million public school students would receive at least some live online instruction when the academic year began, the DOE backed off that promise late Tuesday in an internal guidance memo.
Now, the 58 percent of kids whose parents signed up for a blended learning schedule — alternating in-person classes with online courses — won’t be guaranteed that those virtual sessions take place in real time.
That is, they may find themselves watching pre-recorded videos of lessons in which the teacher isn’t actually online at the time, depriving them of a chance to ask for help during class if they don’t understand the material.
Only the 42 percent of students so far signed up to receive remote learning five days a week will be guaranteed real-time classes.
With school populations split up to enable social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic, classes have multiplied, creating a severe staffing crunch.
Many parents complained about the lack of live instruction during the last academic year, with some reporting that teachers went weeks at a time without directly communicating with their students.
The city principals union said the move justifies the alarms they’ve been sounding for months.
“The DOE’s last-minute announcement that live instruction is no longer required during remote days for blended learners is obviously an attempt to deal with the staffing crisis that CSA has been warning the DOE about for months,” wrote Council of School Supervisors and Administrators president Mark Cannizzaro in a Wednesday letter.
The union has said 10,000 teachers would be needed to fully staff classes — while City Hall has thus far provided only 2,000.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza defended the 11th-hour decision on Wednesday, while admitting that there’s a level of improvisation to a school year unlike any other.
“We’ve said repeatedly it won’t be a perfect start and we’ll be making a lot of adjustments in the weeks after we begin,” said de Blasio during his daily press briefing.
Despite the switch being announced on the eve of the school year, Carranza insisted the DOE was being as forthright as possible.
“There are constant variables at play here and what we’ve chosen to do is be honest and transparent with the public in saying to folks our goal has always been synchronous instruction every single day,” he said.
“We’re being honest. Nobody is hiding anything here,” continued Carranza. “You’re almost darned if you do and darned if you don’t.”
Additional reporting by Aaron Feis
‘Holy s–t, I thought we had better technology’
Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester grew frustrated — and a bit profane — at a mostly virtual Senate committee hearing on Thursday after technical issues garbled his question.
“Holy s–t, I thought we had better technology than this,” Tester told Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin at the Senate Banking Committee hearing.
Mnuchin struggled to hear Tester’s inquiry about data security for American Indians amid the COVID-19 pandemic. On the third attempt, Mnuchin heard the question and promised to look into it.
Tester, a farmer and former teacher known for his flat-top haircut and folksy manner, was reelected in 2018 to a third term representing Montana.
He’s far from alone in feeling frustrated about technology as the pandemic expands digital operations for disproportionately elderly lawmakers.
Democratic Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware threw a fit last month when he nearly missed his turn to grill Postmaster General Louis DeJoy at a hearing on election mail.
“F–k, F–k, F–k!” Carper said, swiveling in his chair to bark the expletives at an aide.
The aide walked over to Carper’s desk and helped him work his livestream, which apparently had his audio feed muted.
“Like most Americans in 2020, Senator Carper got frustrated with technical difficulties this morning,” his office said.
Tester’s spokespeople did not immediately reply to an inquiry.
Florida Republican registrations are surging ahead of election
Republican voter registration is surging in Florida narrowing a historical Democratic advantage in the swing state ahead of the Nov. 3 election.
In August, Republicans added a GOP record of about 58,000 new voters, Politico reported, or 41 percent more than new Democrats in Florida.
“Florida looking good!” Trump tweeted Thursday morning after the story published.
Polls suggest that Trump dramatically increased his support among Florida Latinos as he denounces Latin American socialism, but he’s at risk of a dramatic loss of support among senior citizens amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trump will host a rally in Jacksonville, Florida, on Thursday night before spending the night at his Trump National Doral Miami resort.
Republicans attribute the GOP success at voter registration to a door-knocking operation as Biden supporters avoid in-person contacts due to the pandemic.
Trump’s Florida campaign director Susie Wiles told Politico, “We’ve turned our focus to voter registration in a more meaningful way than before. Everyone said you can’t do it — get the gap between Republicans and Democrats to such a small number. Well, you can do it.”
Democrats now have a registration advantage of fewer than 200,000 voters in Florida, and some Democrats are frustrated.
Miami Democratic state Sen. Jason Pizzo told Politico, “There’s been no pushback from us, meaning that for every 100 doors that Republicans have proverbially knocked on, it’s not like they pissed people off to the point where they’ve run to the Democratic Party because they’re pissed at the GOP. It’s shown to be effective.”
The Trump campaign is utilizing a door-knocking strategy in other swing states, hoping to out-hustle Biden, who routinely calls an early-morning “lid” for press, meaning no live events are expected, as Trump addresses multiple large rallies each week.
Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee said this month they made contact with 100 million voters through door knocking and phone banking.
Louisville police major labels protesters as ‘punks’ in email
A white Louisville police major reportedly disparaged people protesting racial injustice and police brutality as “punks” who will be washing cars, toiling at Walmart or living in their parents’ basements all their lives, according to a report.
“I know it is hard to keep our thoughts and opinions to ourselves sometimes, especially when we, as a whole or as an individual, become the target of people in the public who criticize what we do without even knowing the facts,” the message purportedly written by Maj. Bridget Hallahan reads, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported.
“These ANTIFA and BLM people, especially the ones who just jumped on the bandwagon ‘yesterday’ because they became ‘woke’ (insert eye roll here), do not deserve a second glance or thought from us. Our little pinky toenails have more character, morals, and ethics, than these punks have in their entire body,” the disparaging missive continues.
“Do not stop to their level. Do not respond to them. If we do, we only validate what they did. Don’t make them important, because they are not. They will be the ones washing our cars, cashing us out at the Walmart, or living in their parents’ basement playing COD for their entire life,” it adds.
The message also claims that cops and their families are being “doxed merely because people just don’t like being told what to do or what not to do by police.”
“There is currently no recourse we have for incidents involving the doxing of officers or their families,” the writer says. “What we can do is speak up against them and put the truth out there.”
Hallahan, who commands the police force’s Fifth Division, could not be reached for comment by the newspaper. Police spokesman Sgt. Lamont Washington told the outlet that the department is looking into the matter and had no further comment.
Councilman Brandon Coan said the missive seems “out of character” for Hallahan, “and that’s why it’s so shocking.”
“I’m disappointed,” he told the Courier-Journal. “I think it’s a totally unacceptable attitude of any police officer and extremely poor leadership from a major. I think she owes the community an apology and she’ll have to deal with the consequences of her conduct.”
The news outlet said it obtained the message Tuesday, hours after an email surfaced from Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, one of the officers involved in the Breonna Taylor shooting.
Mattingly and Detective Miles Cosgrove have been found to be “justified” in returning fire after Taylor’s boyfriend fired first with a licensed handgun during a botched raid.
Brett Hankison, meanwhile, has been indicted on charges that he fired several rounds into Taylor’s apartment that went into an occupied neighboring unit.
Neither he nor any of the other officers involved were criminally charged for her death.
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