UTICA, N.Y. -- A stressed, working mother cried in the Utica City School District Offices parking lot, at Kernan School, Wednesday afternoon.
"It's just...it's hard because you don't feel like they're getting the education," said Marion Crain. "I'm a high school dropout, and the things that they're teaching the kids now, this stuff is like high school, college stuff, and i don't know it."
Crain is one of many working parents who now must make arrangements for someone to not only watch their child, but shepherd them through online learning. The Utica City School District has opted for remote learning for the first four weeks of school.
Tanya Ford's 8th-grade son also is in the Utica School District. She says he's a good student, and he misses being in school. She doesn't think the dangers of the coronavirus should be discounted, but she does think he should return to the classroom, now.
"We're doing it now, we're doing well. We go to the grocery store, we interact with people, we social distance," says Ford. "It's time to move forward and I think the kids should be considered essential, their education should be considered essential, and it's time to go back to school."
These moms won't get much of an argument from Utica School Superintendent, Bruce Karam.
"It's just...this is a very hard decision. It's very difficult times I mean, I can't even explain it. I've never seen anything like this," said an exasperated Karam. But in the end, the person responsible for the health and safety of 11,000 students and 2,000 faculty and staff, says that those two things have to come first. "I guess our goal right now, our number one mission is the health and safety of the students and the staff. And that the education will come next, but we have to make sure that everyone is safe."
Karam points out that teachers now have experience with remote learning, and that they've spent the summer improving upon that. He says the district has spent $4 million just on Chromebooks and wifi hotspots. The computers will be on loan to any student who needs them.
The district provided 5,000 meals a day during the spring remote learning; the meals will be made available again during this round of remote learning. They'll be available for pickup at various sites. At the end of four weeks of remote learning, the district will re-evaluate and determine whether they will begin phasing students back into buildings.