New York City to reopen schools, even as spread of coronavirus intensifies

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Some elementary schools and pre-kindergarten programs will resume classes on December 7, a week starting Monday, the mayor said. Others will take longer to reopen their doors.
School programs for students with special needs at all grade levels will be open for in-person learning from December 10, de Blasio said.

The plan to reopen middle and high schools is still being worked out, de Blasio said.

“We are confident that we can keep schools safe,” he said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a fellow Democrat, has said he supports Blasio’s plan to reopen the school.

“I think this is the right direction,” the governor said on a conference call with reporters. “We have new facts and information about schools. ”

Public schools in New York City opened for in-person learning starting in September for students whose parents chose formal education. School buildings closed again on November 19 due to the increase in COVID-19 infections in the city.

Masks and social distancing were mandatory during school opening weeks, and class sizes were a fraction of the prepandemic average of 25 to 30 students.

Around 190,000 students will be able to return to classrooms during the first cycle of reopening, just a fraction of the more than one million students in the system. The vast majority of parents have chosen to have their children learn from a distance by computer.

De Blasio said many of those returning in person will be able to attend five days of classes per week, up from one to three days previously.

Students present in person will need to be tested frequently for the virus. Previously, the city set a goal of testing 20% ​​of teachers and students in each school building once a month. From now on, the tests will be weekly.

The mayor said the city was removing its previous trigger for school closings, which was when 3% or more of virus tests in the city over a seven-day period came back positive.

“The idea of ​​the hard number made a lot of sense this summer when we hadn’t been through all of this yet,” said de Blasio.

Since then, de Blasio suggested, a relatively low number of positive coronavirus tests in schools shows that it is possible to keep schools open even with a city-wide test positivity rate of over 3%.

Schools in the orange COVID-19 zones designated by Cuomo due to rising infection rates will reopen under rules set by the governor, de Blasio said.

De Blasio said during a press briefing that he discussed his plan to reopen with Cuomo. “We all agree that we have a different reality than what we experienced this summer and that is now the way to go and the best way to protect everyone,” he said. .

Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Teachers’ Federation, said the union supported the reopening plan as long as rigorous testing was in place.

“This strategy – properly implemented – will allow us to safely deliver in-person instruction to the maximum number of students until we overcome the pandemic,” Mulgrew said in a statement.

Mark Cannizzaro, chair of the Board of School Supervisors and Administrators, which represents principals, said principals “deeply understand the need for children to learn in person as regularly as possible, provided that all safety are based on medical advice. professionals. ”

New York crossed the 3% threshold at the start of November and things have deteriorated slightly since. More than 9,300 New Yorkers have tested positive for the virus in the past seven days.

The rates of positive coronavirus tests at school sites, however, remained low. A spokesperson for de Blasio said more than 160,000 students and school staff have been tested and only about 0.25% of the results were positive.

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