Parents At New York's Dalton School Revolt Over $54K Tuition For Online Classes

Parents at New York's elite Dalton School are spitting mad over having to pay $54,180 in tuition for online-only classes during the pandemic, according to Bloomberg.

Now, after weeks of watching kids stream in and out of other private school buildings, and the city’s public schools resuming in-person learning, some Dalton parents are calling for kids to get off their computers and back in the classroom. -Bloomberg

"We are, in short, frustrated and confused and better hope to understand the school’s thought processes behind the virtual model it has adopted," said a group of about a dozen physician-parents in a letter to the head of the school last week. "Please tell us what are the criteria for re-opening fully in person. Covid-19 is not going away and waiting for that to happen is misguided."

Dalton is one of many schools around the country which has restricted or eliminated in-person education during the pandemic. That said, remote learning risks children falling behind, both academically and socially as Bloomberg notes. Adding to the frustration is parents who are sick of writing giant tuition checks for virtual learning.

Meanwhile, a petition for the return of on-campus classes was signed over the weekend by over 70 lower-school parents, who say "Zoom-school is not Dalton."

"From our understanding, several of our peer schools are not just surviving but thriving," reads the letter from the physician parents. "Our children are sad, confused and isolated, questioning why everyone around them gets to go to school when they do not."

Jim Best, the head of school, told the physicians he wants to work with them on a reopening plan for Dalton’s 1,300 students and 250 teachers, according to one of the parents, who asked not to be identified.

“We welcome and appreciate the perspective of these parents, as well as every parent and member of our community,” a spokesperson for the Upper East Side school said Monday in a statement. -Bloomberg

The frustrated letter comes as New York redoubles efforts to lock down after its sixth-consecutive day of infections of 1,000 or more - while Mayor Bill de Blasio says he'll shutter Brooklyn and Queens schools located in hot spots starting Wednesday. 

Another New York private school, Bronx-based Horace Mann, closed on Monday and will reopen Tuesday after a teacher tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend. One student and two other teachers are in quarantine after the first teacher caught the virus at a family event off campus. After the Thanksgiving recess, the school will move to remote learning through the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, according to Head of School, Thomas Kelly.

It's not just rich parents in New York, either - as parents and students alike across the country, many with far fewer financial resources to throw at tuition, express frustration over the online-only model while paying full pop.

"I feel like I’m teaching myself the material and every day is a new frustration," said Virginia Commonwealth University junior, Anthony Belotti in a September statement to CNBC. "I’m not getting the networking or one-on-one interactions with the professors."

"I’m paying more [this year] because of a fee increase. They [the school] didn’t specify what it was for."

"Students are justifiably angry and they are suffering financially, logistically, mentally and emotionally from these major, last-minute changes to their college plans," said James Toscano, president of Partners for College Affordability and Public Trust.

Meanwhile, a University of Washington graduate student launched a class-action lawsuit against his school.

"Despite sending students home, transitioning to online instruction, and closing its campuses, University of Washington continued to charge for tuition and/or fees as if nothing changed, continuing to reap the financial benefit of millions of dollars from students," reads the complaint.

"It is our hope that through this litigation, UW can come to recognize its responsibility to tuition-payers and the ways in which it has failed to deliver what it promised them," said attorney Steve Berman, who represents the students.