Cuomo + UFT: Our Students Need Spring Break, and So Do We

Students, families, and educators need a break for this ongoing health crisis – occasional breaks are as critical as instruction when it comes to learning

On Monday, March 30th, the New York State Education Department ordered school districts to continue remote learning through what was contractually agreed upon as Spring Break. While Governor Cuomo today threatens cuts to education and Medicaid in the New York State annual budget, he also had the gall to use  his emergency powers to cancel part of our Spring Break and threatened school districts with the loss of state aid if school districts do not comply with this order. This decision was not made in consultation with educators or NYC communities. 

We reject and dismiss the offensive and false assumption that students will not heed a social distancing order while on a break from remote learning. The parents, students, and families of New York City know what is at stake for communities and do not need a state mandate on remote learning to heed the social distancing order. 

The MORE-UFT caucus is opposed to the cancellation of the 2019-20 Spring Break and feels that this misguided decision to unilaterally abolish Spring Break will do more harm than good. MORE-UFT implores city and state officials to act with calm and rationale amidst the chaos and uncertainty that have beset our lives. Spring Break is an annual routine that must remain in place to provide continuity and consistency in our lives. Spring Break allows students, families and educators to restore energy reserves. Spring Break is a time to engage in family rituals that bind us to each other and our communities. After, we return to school with reset focus and renewed zest. This is so important in normal times. Now, it is doubly so. We are not alone on this: a petition to restore the Spring Break gathered 10,000 signatures in a matter of hours.

Parents, students and teachers are already under extreme stress. This emergency transition to distance learning was rolled out haphazardly by our school district, leaving students, parents, and teachers overwhelmed with the difficulties of remote learning. Many students do not have access to necessary technology and Internet, parents are stressed over the academic demands that they are now responsible for as at-home caretakers and caregivers, and educators are struggling with the hugely increased workload of transitioning to a virtual classroom while balancing their own roles as parents, caregivers, and colleagues.

As New York City is the epicenter of a global pandemic, our communities are also wrestling the with the unprecedented trauma of COVID-19. Families and communities have lost their jobs and livelihoods. Our students and colleagues have lost loved ones, and we have many educators and loved ones who have been impacted by COVID-19. We have suffered tragic losses of life, with NYCDOE parents, educators, and principals succumbing to this terrible virus. People need a moment to process everything that has and is happening now. 

Educators, students, and families should be able to meet their socio-emotional and mental health needs, rest, and be with their loved ones, especially during such uncertain times. Social programs that provide needed services can continue without need for a remote learning state mandate. 

Finally, barring a shortened school year, New York City schools would go well over the 180 days mandate for school attendance if Spring Break were cancelled. We do not accept the UFT or Andrew Cuomo using a crisis to take advantage of working people and increase teacher workloads beyond all reasonable expectations.  

MORE-UFT demands that Governor Cuomo reinstate Spring Break as a break from remote teaching and learning. We demand that the UFT represent its members and negotiate to have Spring Break remain a break. Both the UFT and Governor Cuomo have called on us to do our part and make sacrifices. We have been doing just that, working 12-hour days, balancing caregiving with remote teaching and organizing our communities. We call on the Governor to do HIS part, tax the rich so he does not need to cut public school funding, and reinstate spring break for the sake of teachers, parents and students’ mental health. We push for our communities to contact Governor Cuomo and the New York State Education Department to keep Spring Break a break during this time. 

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