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Teachers union goes AWOL in fight to keep migrant shelters out of schools

After three years of school closures, mandates, learning loss and deteriorating mental health, haven’t our city’s children suffered enough?

Not according to City Hall.

Mayor Eric Adams has really outdone himself this time, threatening to kick public school kids from their gyms and libraries to warehouse newly arrived, unvetted adult migrants, drawn here by his proud proclamations of New York City’s welcoming sanctuary status.

As many as 20 schools stand to lose their gyms, with children forced into city streets for recess and physical activity, weather permitting.

Coney Island, Sunset Park and other targets on the mayor’s list of schools are mainly in vulnerable black and brown communities that suffered disproportionately from school closures and the mandates that followed.

But they clearly haven’t paid a big-enough price.

Parents citywide are horrified, but good may yet come of it.

The mayor’s reckless decision has united some unlikely allies, with a bipartisan outcry from City Council members.

People protest at PS17 over migrants being housed at the school’s gym.
Gabriella Bass

Teamsters Local 237, which represents school-safety agents, filed a complaint with the city’s Office of Labor Relations alleging that safety agents are being “placed in harm’s way” and are “not trained to deal with security issues” associated with migrant shelters.

A notable absence from the public outrage was the teachers union, which should — in theory — rush to support overwhelmed members and students put at risk.

But there was nothing of the sort. While students, families and school administrators rallied Tuesday to stop this insanity, American Federation of Teachers chief Randi Weingarten schmoozed her way around the Writers Guild of America picket line at the Javits Center.

Pressed Wednesday by “Good Day New York” co-host Rosanna Scotto to explain what concrete action the  union would take, United Federation of Teachers head Mike Mulgrew spat out, “We are going to start a campaign of shaming.”

The union’s plan to protect children and teachers is that they have no plan.

The excuses from City Hall have also been downright insulting: repeatedly saying there is no other space and schools are a “last resort,” that the Biden administration left them high and dry.

Approximately 75 parents and children who attend PS 172 in Sunset Park held a rally today in front of the school
Around 75 parents and children who attend PS 172 in Sunset Park held a rally in front of the school on May 17, 2023.
Gregory P. Mango

While this may be a fair assessment of the White House, there is still no justification for seizing school gyms.

The pandemic taught parents a harsh, much-needed lesson: The well-being of public-school kids is an afterthought.

In the case of migrants housed in school gyms, it feels more like a heartless political stunt to garner federal funds, with low-income students being used as pawns.

New York City is overflowing with vacant office space and storefronts.

Just a few months ago the mayor dismantled tents on Randall’s Island that were built expressly to house arriving migrants, abruptly closing them due to underuse.

Where are these tents now?

And why haven’t they been reassembled?

There seems to be no will to bring them back or to creatively repurpose adult spaces — and kids’ spaces are low-hanging fruit.

Parents at PS17 protest migrants being housed at the schools gym
A number of NYC schools could end up losing their gyms to house migrants.
Gabriella Bass

Parents are supposed to just trust that their children are safe in school while unvetted adult asylum seekers are housed in adjacent buildings on school property.

Parents are rightly saying no and refusing to send kids.

Chancellor David Banks has also falsely reassured parents that schools would not be disrupted, but it’s too late.

Public-school kids have been forced into streets for recess, routines disrupted just as life was getting back to normal.

The message to these kids: You come last. Once again.

As this administration pretends to care about the underprivileged, it is once again using children as human shields.

Children, who were least at risk, suffered the most restrictive COVID policies, with public schools, playgrounds and libraries closed for many months, even as adult spaces quickly reopened.

The result: learning loss, spiraling mental-health issues and growing obesity, now exacerbated by shrinking common spaces and decommissioned gyms.

Post-pandemic public school attendance is plummeting.

Kids have lost interest and engagement from years of having their needs ignored.

Migrants at the vacant Hungerforsd School arrived by a NYC Transit bus today on May 17,2023.
Migrants at the vacant Hungerford School arrived by an NYC bus on May 17, 2023.
whiSteve White for New York Postte

Still, ask a struggling kid what his or her favorite class is, and you’re likely to hear “Gym.’

It’s disingenuous to frame the migrant crisis as an either-or situation, pitting children’s rights against migrant rights.

A good leader would find a compassionate, creative solution for both groups.

It is not too late.

Migrants were set to move from Coney Island’s PS 188 to some location in Manhattan by Wednesday’s end, sources told The Post.

Mayor Adams, please do better.

Commit to scrapping this harebrained plan entirely.

Natalya Murakhver is co-founder of the nonprofit Restore Childhood. She is producing a documentary on school shutdowns, “15 Days. . .” Yasmina Palumbo is a public-school parent and co-editor of Restore Childhood Substack.

This story originally appeared on NYPost

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