Big Apple parents swarmed an East Harlem playground Saturday for a rally to urge the city to immediately reopen public schools, outnumbering by a wide margin those who showed up at the same spot to back remote learning.
About 100 pro-openers swarmed Wagner Playground, countered by about 50 people from the other side for the mostly civil, dueling demonstrations.
“Like plants, kids need to be outside,” said Megan Rha, a mom of four from Queens. “They need to see what life is like outside their house.”
Stephanie Felix, a West Harlem resident and mother to three, said opening schools is a critical step to regain normalcy amid the pandemic.
“Without the schools opening, free childcare, daycare — that’s the most important stuff to go back to normalcy,” she said. “Amazon and Alexa are my best friends. I check on my children though a camera so I can go back to work. It’s terrible. I’m not supposed to do it, but they need to eat,” she said, through tears.
But Paullette Healy, a mother and resident of Bay Ridge, spoke for remote education.
“Vaccines are not the answer to reopening schools. If our child is to take multiple medications just to walk out that door, how can you insist that child go back into a school where COVID is still rising?” she asked.
The reopening rally was organized by Harlem Jets and and #KeepNYCSchoolsOpen; the counter-rally was organized by a number of groups including the Alliance for Quality Education, the Movement of Rank and File Educations and BLM at Schools NYC.
Mayoral candidate and self-described “frustrated public-school parent,” Andrew Yang joined the pro-openers in calling on Mayor Bill de Blasio to open city schools “five days a week with extra-curricular activities and athletics.”
“I was talking to a parent here who said that she has a nephew in Long Island who’s been back in school for months,” Yang said. “Why is New York City failing its families to this degree?”
“Because of de Blasio!” yelled a man in the crowd.
The mayor’s press secretary, Bill Neidhardt, responded in a statement: “Andrew Yang should know that Mayor de Blasio already announced school will return in full force in September. It was Mayor de Blasio who opened schools when no other major city even tried months ago. We put schools first and that will never change.”
As he left the rally, Yang was confronted by a handful of parents who backed remote learning.
“Our kids are not your props!” several shouted.
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