NYC Schools Set Phased Reopening for Some Students
On Sunday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a phased reopening for New York City's public schools, which have been shuttered since Thursday, November 19. School buildings reopen Monday, December 7, for elementary and early childhood students; District 75 students are eligible to return to school buildings on Thursday, December 10.
In an abrupt shift, de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza announced they would be moving away from the hybrid model; students who have opted for blended learning will be moved to full, five-day, in-person schedules as soon as schools can accommodate them with adequate space and staffing. There is still no timeline for middle and high school students to return to school buildings.
"There's less concern about the spread when it comes to younger kids," de Blasio said of the plan to invite only elementary schoolers back into buildings at this point. "Also, the demands that our parents are going through. And I feel for all our parents who are experiencing so many challenges right now, how important it is for them to have their younger kids in school, how important that is at that age, both educationally and socially, but also in terms of how parents juggle all the challenges in their life."
Crucial to the reopening plan is an increased emphasis on testing. While schools were previously required to test 20 percent of their population monthly, now those tests are required weekly. Families whose students return to in-person learning must consent to the testing by logging onto their NYC Schools Account and filling out a form. Families who previously filled out the consent form are encouraged to do so again before the return to in-person learning.
Students who opted for blended learning before the start of the school year, plus those who opted-in during the November opt-in period, are eligible to return to buildings. Those who chose remote learning will remain in the fully remote model, along with all middle and high school students who do not attend District 75 schools.
The mayor is also eliminating the 3 percent positivity threshold for shuttering schools, though any schools in state-designated red or orange zones would be subject to closure or greater testing per state guidelines.
"Getting our children back in school buildings is one of the single most important things we can do for their well-being," Carranza said. "And it's so important that we do it right. With these new measures in place, I and the entire team is confident that we're on track to safely and successfully keep our schools open for the duration of this pandemic."
Other mainstays of the 2020 school year, including mask wearing and social distancing, are still mandated when schools reopen, however. The COVID-monitoring city-run situation room continues to operate and school shutdowns for positive cases will still happen. So far, however, there has been just a .28 percent positivity rate among staff and students; that represents 453 positive tests out of 159,842 tests.