Photo courtesy of Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office on Flickr
New York City pre-kindergarten and elementary public school students can return to in-person instruction starting December 7, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Sunday. The news comes just two weeks after the mayor shuttered public school buildings, citing the citywide coronavirus positivity rate of 3 percent on a seven-day average, a metric established as part of the administration’s reopening plan. But after criticism over allowing indoor dining and gyms to remain open but not schools, de Blasio said Sunday he would ditch the 3 percent threshold and look at the number of cases at each school instead.
Students in 3-K and Pre-K programs and in Kindergarten through 5th grade who have already signed up for in-person learning will return to school buildings on Monday, December 7. District 75 schools that serve students with disabilities will return on December 10. Middle and high schools will remain closed.
According to the New York Times, about 190,000 students will be eligible to return to in-person instruction next week; 335,000 students have chosen to attend in-person classes in total. With over 1.1 million students in the NYC school system, a majority of students, about 790,000 children, are learning remotely.
In order to return to in-person classes, families must fill out a COVID-19 testing consent form. About 20 percent of students and staff at every school will be randomly tested on a weekly basis. Previously, random testing happened monthly.
The positivity rate at city schools remains much lower than the city as a whole. According to de Blasio, the most recent positivity rate across the school system was .28 percent, with 453 positive cases out of 159,842 tests. As of Sunday, the mayor said New York City’s positivity rate on a seven-day rolling average was 3.9 percent.
“Reopening our buildings is paramount to our city’s recovery from COVID-19,” de Blasio said in a statement. “That’s why we are doubling down on the safety and health measures that work to make in-person learning a reality for so many of our students.”
The mayor also said schools that can, will be offering five-day-a-week instruction to students who already signed up for the city’s blended learning plan, reducing remote learning at many schools.
During a Sunday call with reporters, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said reopening schools in New York City is “the right direction.” The governor controls restrictions surrounding indoor dining, bars, and gyms.
“Just about every professional says the schools, especially K-8, should be kept open whenever it’s possible to keep them open safely,” Cuomo said. “We have done testing in schools and we now know what we’re looking at in schools. The positivity rate is much, much lower. It’s literally safer for a child and the teacher to be in the school than in the community.”
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