Joe Borelli
© Natan Dvir
City Councilman Joe Borelli
A group of fed-up city parents is suing the city over the lack of full time schooling in the nation's largest school system.

The families, who will file the class action suit Wednesday, are stressing the damage being wrought by screen-dependent remote learning in making their demand.

Crystal Lia, 39, a parent of three, said the format is draining her family of both resources and educational value.

"My husband is a city worker," she said Wednesday. "I'm an essential employee, I run a business on Staten Island. We cannot physically teach three kids in three different grades. We cannot afford to pay our bills by staying home with three kids in three different grades."

Erin Ulitto, 34, said her special needs son is receding both academically and socially because of the lack of full time schooling.

"He doesn't know how to play with other kids," she said. "He doesn't know how to be with other kids. The DOE is failing him. He needs to go to school five days a week, full time every single day, or he will not be able to be successful."

City Councilman Joe Borelli joined the plaintiffs in front of a Staten Island courthouse Wednesday.

"Remote education, watching a YouTube video, is not meeting the constitutional requirement for a sound, basic education," Borelli said. "Watching videos all day is not the same as being in school and socializing and interacting with your teachers and interacting with your peers and having the services in many cases that your child's education plan guarantees."

He added that the suit will test the DOE's tacit suggestion that remote learning serves a passable substitute for in-person instruction.

"I'd be shocked if the DOE actually made the argument that remote education was somehow meeting this constitutional requirement, because that would rock the foundation of public education," he said. "Why would we need teachers anymore? Why would we need class sizes? It wouldn't matter."

Attorney Louis Gelormino, who will be filing the case, said that parents who are not comfortable with the resumption of full-time classroom education should still have the option to learn from home.

"But we're demanding that the City give us the option of putting up kids in school five days a week, 180 days a year, like they should be," he said.

Borelli said the lawsuit was necessitated by what he said was a badly disordered DOE approach to the new academic year.

"We are extremely frustrated," he said. "We are at our wits' end. And simply having the DOE pull things out of the sky in order to accommodate students is just not enough."

Borelli said that current classroom teaching has also been badly compromised this year, with kids being "babysat" rather than adequately taught by live teachers.

Other large districts - including Dallas and Miami - are already moving towards a full reopening, he noted.

Mayor de Blasio partially revived city schools this year with a model that has students alternate between home and classroom learning.

Hizzoner has stressed minimal infection rates in schools in recent weeks, with students showing a 0.17 infection rate thus far in mandatory school testing.

The DOE had a more positive assessment of the state of the school system than Borelli Wednesday.

"This is a petty distraction from real news: the nation's largest school system is open for in-person learning, and students in every grade are receiving high-quality instruction five days a week," said spokesperson Danielle Filson. "The percent of positive tests at schools has been very low, and our safety protocols are specifically designed to continue to keep the risk at bay and to align with guidance issued by federal, state and local health experts. We will review the suit."