Thu, Sep 10 10:19am
Hello P.S. 20 Family,

The official(ish) start of school is upon us and there's a natural and understandable anxiousness that comes with that - particularly under these circumstances.   A lot of you may have reached out to the main office for clarity and, having not received a response are becoming more anxious and frustrated about your inability to plan for you and your family.  Trust that we totally get it.

My apologies for the delay and confusion.  The pandemic has proven to be a herculean task to manage and for the educational stakeholders to wrap their heads around. Unfortunately, that has resulted in delays in terms of getting parents the clarity they would like to prepare accordingly.  So you are not alone.

Principal Barbera and the teachers are working feverishly to finalize those details so that they can communicate them to parents with clarity, and I trust that those answers will be announced shortly.   Some of us are hearing that other schools have already communicated full and finalized schedules and supply list to their parents, but it's important to understand the reality behind that.

Charter schools, for example are allowed to operate by different rules that allows them flexibility that NYC public schools  don't have.  For example, the fact that their teachers are not unionized means that those principals don't have the extra task of meeting certain hourly, safety or remote learning criteria that affects their planning and scheduling.   Where as, Mrs. Barbera not only had to wait for the Chancellor to pass down directives, but also had to balance those directives with that considerations of the teacher's union.

On the other hand, there are some NYC public schools that have managed to send out information as their principals work under the same conditions as P.S. 20.  However, some of these schools that have a PTA war chest of anywhere from $500K - $1M, and the financial ability to fund two teachers per classroom (even before the pandemic) - again which makes programming and scheduling a more  amenable process.   Where as Mrs. Barbera is working to bring on more faculty because (as of last week) there was simply not enough teachers to meet the needed of those students who will in the building. 

So I want us as parents to be assured that our concerns, phone calls and emails aren't simply being dismissed.  But rather have been prioritized behind doing the work of getting the school up and running for a safe and functional return.    This requires not only the hiring of new faculty, but working our present faculty (remote and blended) who have to meet and develop and coordinate programming, as the hours for full remote learners are still being developed by the teachers themselves. 

One of the considerations that makes this more challenging is that learners on different grade levels have different needs when it comes to the amount of attention and screen time that works for them cognitively and how it can be implemented to address their social/emotional learning.
Additionally, their are considerations in regard to equity that impact the scheduling there, as well.

Meanwhile, the cohort arrangements shift daily as parents opt into full remote, which changes the teacher to student ratio, which affects other cohorts where a students may be pulled to balance out those ratios, which affects the ability to let parents know which cohort their in for fear that that may change and parents who planned for a particular cohort are now frustrated that they are no longer with that group and that teacher.... It's kind of like Jenga...

It's complex and constantly changing configurations that are happening as other concerns (from the ventilation, to planning arrival and dismissal, to street closings for outdoor learning, to making sure that the furniture in each class accommodates social distancing guidelines) are being considered as well - all of this, with out the aid of Mrs. Perez who is on medical/sick leave.

SO, I know it's a long message, but I believe that we have a better understanding of the gravity of the work being done behind the scenes - not just from an administrative standpoint, but also teacher and parents who spend hours a week in meetings to help -  then that will ease the frustration and feeling that we're simply being ignored.  

That said, it's also why it's important to contribute to the PTA, either financially or by volunteering.  Those contributions go to making sure that there is the extra support that allows the school to more readily meet our individual family needs.

So please, continue to be patient as information rolls out and visit our FAQ page for answers to some of your questions.... And consider responding to the "GENERAL VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES at PS 20" message that just went out on Konstella.

Look forward to seeing everyone again soon,

Lawrence "LAW" Watford
PTA Co-Pres