Local advocacy group pushes school districts across New York to create safe and inclusive environment

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(WIVB) – New York State is expected to release a set of guidelines Monday outlining how schools should create reopening plans.

The New York Equity Coalition wants to use this opportunity to address not only the concerns surrounding COVID-19, but how school districts can bridge learning gaps they say existed before the pandemic.

“During this pandemic, what we found was that the students who were already the most vulnerable went further behind,” said We The Parents Buffalo Co-Chair Samuel L. Radford III.

It’s a group committed to fighting for higher achievement and greater opportunities for all students across the state.

As districts begin drafting reopening plans, members are asking the state to set consistent guidelines for assessing a student’s strengths and what subjects they struggle with. The groups also say there needs to be a clear outline for what high quality instruction will look like in the fall and how to continue that instruction in the event that schools have to close again.

“We all know how to do schooling in the sort of traditional form we’re just trying to figure out how to do it with this virus in play, but what an advantage those students will have to actually physically meet their teachers, met their friends, in person and also have the contingency plan in the event that something happens and it’s no longer safe,” said Education Trust N.Y. Deputy Director Dia Bryant.

They also want districts to adopt anti-racist policies and practices and improve engagement and communication with parents and families.

“One of the biggest challenges during the pandemic was having parents adjust to having to go from just going to work and providing, to providing, being a teacher, being a gym teacher, making sure their students are moving, making sure there’s a schedule and finding that balance of all those things that all of a sudden parents have to do everything,” said Duncan Kirkwood, parent fellow with Ed Trust Parent Family Fellowship.

The New York Equity Coalition is also asking districts to help seniors get- and stay- on track to graduate, as well as to re-engage students who are at the highest risk of dropping out.

They provided school districts and lawmakers across the state with their list of recommendations.

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