"I'm very frustrated": Parents demand New York City schools reopen

School closings cause debate over pandemic safety
School closings cause debate over pandemic sa... 02:16

There was anger on the steps of New York City Hall on Thursday as parents demanded schools reopen for in-person learning. Public schools were abruptly closed after 3% of coronavirus tests came back positive, sending parents of some 300,000 students scrambling Wednesday night.

"I'm very frustrated," said parent Salu Bekbayeva, who leaves for work every morning at 5 a.m. She said the burden to prepare her son to go all-remote will fall on her husband.

When her son, Antoine, was asked what he will miss the most about school, he responded, "My teacher and seeing friends in real life."

Dr. Uche Blackstone has treated thousands of COVID-19 patients and has two boys in New York City public schools.

"Is it safe to send students back to school in New York City?" CBS News asked Blackstone.

"I do think right now it is safe," she said. "They're going back in smaller cohorts. They're wearing masks, as are the teachers."

A date for when New York City schools will reopen for in-person learning has not been announced, raising concerns over more students getting left behind.

The struggle stretches across the country. Nationwide, more than 40% of students are currently attending schools that are virtual only.

Ms. Dennis, who didn't want CBS News to use her first name, said she and her three children are homeless, living in the Apostles' House shelter in Newark, New Jersey. With a spotty internet connection, remote learning is nearly impossible.

"We're not out on the streets, so I can say that's better. It's still hard," she said. "They have their moments. Sometimes they break down in this ... this is not ideal; it's not ideal for anyone."

"It's difficult because to move forward, you have to work, but with remote learning it's difficult for me to work because I don't have anybody to watch the kids," Ms. Dennis added.

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    Meg Oliver is a correspondent for CBS News based in New York City.