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With schools set to reopen across New York State, education leaders are focusing on developing reopening planthat prioritize health, safety, and – we hope – educational equity.  

Polls conducted by The Education Trust–New York in March and June show that parent satisfaction with distance learning dropped from 57% in March to 43% in June, driven by increased dissatisfaction by families from low-income backgrounds. The 16-point drop among Black families shows that parents are concerned and need to be heard.  At the root of the dissatisfaction is the fear that children will fall behind, academically.  

Beginning in May of 2020, The Education Trust–New York’s Equity Family Fellows organized parents from across the state for a series of conversations about school reopening after pandemic school closures. These three conversations – known as Parent Equity Forums – were broadly attended by concerned parentof all backgrounds.   

This week, parents welcomed Regents and lawmakers from around New York State to hear their recommendations for school reopening. The recommendations aggregate the themes from two previous parent forums and focus on the importance of parent partnership, student well-being, and, most importantly, ensuring that students have continued rigorous instruction even if there are unexpected school closures again.   

Based on feedback from parents at these forums, Equity Family Fellows have five recommendations for state and district leaders as they develop plans for reopening:  

  • Be intentional about keeping strong teachers
  • Give students schedules that make family life manageable
  • Prioritize student wellness and academics 
  • Prepare for future school closures 
  • Consider us as partners

During the virtual meetingspolicymakers listened closely to parents and expressed interest in having more conversations, specifically citing the importance of authentic parent voice in such complex decision-making.  

“Every policy decision at every government level should be driven by authentic parent voice in regards to school reopening,”  said Duncan Kirkwood, a Family Fellow from Buffalo. “As parents, we refuse to go back to a time when decisions are made that directly affect our children without any significant input.”

“As schools struggle with if and how to return to classroom learning in the fall, concerns about safety, caregivers’ ability to return to work, and inequitable access to technology make it a nearly impossible decision,” added Jackie Burbridge, a Family Fellow from Long Island. For these reasons, it is critically important that parents have a voice as stakeholders in this crucial moment. I am thankful to Ed Trust–NY for ensuring that the parent voice is being heard,”  

There is no simple solution to reopening schools. For that reason, it is important that we all keep equity in focus and lean on one another’s expertise for guidanceCivil rights, education, and business members of The New York Equity Coalition have also shared ways to reopen stronger 

Learn more about the Equity Family Fellows’ recommendations here and read additional recommendations from The New York Equity Coalition here.