Why city public schools keep failing the pandemic challenge

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Nine months into the pandemic, the city teachers’ union is still pushing for maximum school closures while administrators remain both distant and disastrously incompetent.

After long waffling on the issue, Mayor de Blasio now says schools should remain open for the rest of the year. Yet United Federation of Teachers chief Michael Mulgrew this week urged the city to adopt the state’s now-outdated 9 percent community-infection rate to trigger school closings.

Yes, this is the same Mike Mulgrew who recently backed off his demand for complete closures when a neighborhood crosses the 3 percent line, after that proved a huge public-relations black eye.

Thing is, a UFT faction called the Solidarity Caucus wants to end in-person learning entirely. According to Gothamist, the group and the larger MORE-UFT caucus want schools to go all-remote until the virus passes and vaccinations are more widespread.

Setting aside the Department of Education’s hyperbole about having the “gold standard in safety measures,” public schools now require weekly testing of students and staff plus face coverings, and closing buildings when the need arises. Middle and high schools are now all-remote, though quality learning an ever-more-remote possibility with each passing day.

Yet for union hard-liners, it’s not enough. These so-called educators want elementary school kids and children with disabilities to suffer the same fate.

School administrators, meanwhile, can’t even keep track of which kids are enrolled. As The Post’s Susan Edelman reports, not only did the DOE turn a parochial high schooler into a phantom public-school student and issue bogus report cards, it actually sicced child abuse investigators on the boy’s family.

The boy’s mother, Margaret Tomasi, told The Post that her son never enrolled at Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill HS; he’s an honor student at Xaverian HS. But she found it impossible to reach any administrators to correct the mix-up.

The school put the kid on its missing-student list despite failing to connect with the family. That led to a home visit by Administration for Children’s Services caseworkers investigating “suspected child abuse” thanks to a referral from Cobble Hill administrators. (ACS closed the case after Xaverian officials set them straight.)

But the DOE comedy of errors doesn’t end. The school had sent the family two report cards giving the lad identical incomplete-but-passing grades. In comments, an algebra teacher even cited his progress in three areas — a bogus personal assessment for a phantom student. A gym teacher gave him the highest grade “ME” for “exceeding standards” — when gyms and playgrounds were closed. The “Mindfulness” instructor helpfully noted, “Frequently does not submit course work.”

The DOE’s grading policy during the pandemic doesn’t allow for any attendance requirement, bans F’s and encourages teachers to use canned “assessment” language. Tomasi could have moved up the next grade without ever having attended school.

Oh, and the city’s agreement with the UFT suspends teacher assessments, too — a bribe to keep the union from striking when the mayor first wanted schools to reopen.

It’s no wonder enrollment is plummeting as parents seek alternative schools that don’t use COVID as an excuse to give up, whether private, parochial or charter. What unites virtually all those schools is that they’re free of both the UFT and the DOE — two institutions that put the children’s needs at the bottom of the priority list.

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