To the editor:
This past academic year was unlike any other over the last century.
As we all know, the Bronx community was hit disproportionately hard from the onset of the pandemic, and all schools — no matter their type — had to overcome extraordinary obstacles. From closing the digital divide, to delivering meals, to finding innovative approaches to instruction, to providing social-emotional support for our communities — educators and staff members rose to the occasion.
They put students first in a time of national crisis.
But as we prepare for the next academic year, the pandemic is not yet in the rearview mirror. The new delta variant is spreading across America, having reached nearly every state in the country. Far more transmittable, it is on track to become the dominant strain not only in New York City, but across the country.
And after an extraordinarily challenging academic year, students across the Bronx can ill-afford to miss instructional time. They need and deserve a full return to normal for their academic growth.
How do we get there despite the delta variant?
By embracing the COVID-19 vaccines. That’s why we’re writing this open letter to the Bronx community: To encourage everyone to protect themselves, students, and our communities from the virus by getting their shot. Our hope is that all children — regardless of the type of public school they attend — will be in the classroom five days per week, uninterrupted, next academic year.
We, as a borough, must boost our vaccination rates to get there.
Currently, the Bronx trails New York City in vaccination rates, with roughly a third of the borough having received its shot. There is indeed more to do this summer to protect our children and our neighborhoods from the risks of COVID-19 in the fall.
We also understand that questions abound. Is the vaccine safe to take? Will there be any long-term side effects? If my child has asthma, will she or he have a negative reaction to the vaccine? What if I already had COVID-19, should I still get a shot?
These are important questions that parents, teachers and communities have about the vaccine and its safety. We urge everyone to consult their medical provider to get the answers, seek the facts, and learn the science.
And after getting those facts, we urge everyone to get their shot. It’s critical to all children’s academic recovery.
We are, as a country and borough, just beginning to come back from the pandemic. It’s incumbent upon all of us to support children in our neighborhoods with the tools they need to overcome the academic roadblocks that have been put in their way since the pandemic first arrived.
And with the delta variant spreading across the country quickly, it will be more important than ever to maximize in-person learning time for our kids.
That’s why we’re encouraging everyone not just in school communities, but also across the borough, to learn the facts. Seek answers. And get their shot.
Our kids are depending on it. And there is no more urgent time than the present.
Elaine Ruiz Lopez
Janelle Bradshaw is chief executive director of the Public Charter School Network. Elaine Ruiz Lopez is chief executive director of International Leadership Charter High School. Other signatories include David Noah, founding principal of Urban Assembly Charter School for Computer Science; Jai Nanda, executive director of Urban Dove Charter School; Melissa Melkonian, founder and executive director of American Dream Charter School; and Jessica Nauiokas, head of school and founder of Mott Haven Academy.