New York City officials have pushed for the return of pre-pandemic life in schools, ending social distancing requirements, revoking mask mandates, and keeping buildings open. But one ritual won’t revert to normal this year: parent-teacher conferences.
Those meetings must generally be held remotely and many caregivers are finding that other back-to-school events meant to introduce families to their children’s teachers are also being conducted online.
Many schools are scheduled to host conferences, which often last less than 15 minutes, with families by the end of the month.
“Remote conferences ensure more consistent access to all families than the traditional parent teacher conference,” education department spokesperson Art Nevins wrote in a statement. He emphasized that evening parent conferences were also virtual last year and that caregivers may request in-person conferences, though according to the teachers union those must occur “during the contractual workday.”
According to education department policy, school visitors must be vaccinated, which may complicate efforts to welcome all parents into buildings. Nevins did not say whether that played a role in the department’s thinking. A United Federation of Teachers spokesperson did not immediately respond to questions about the parent conference policy or their position on it.
Keeping parent-teacher conferences virtual this school year prompted mixed reactions from educators and parents, with some saying the move makes it convenient for working families to participate and others arguing that it will be harder to forge crucial bonds between parents and schools.