On Sunday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city would reopen schools for in-person learning and increase the number of days a week many children attend class, even though the COVID-10 pandemic intensifies in the city.
The mayor’s announcement has marked a major policy reversal for the country’s largest school system, which came just a couple of weeks after de Blasio announced shutting down of the schools due to a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases in NYC.
He said some elementary schools and pre-kindergarten programs would resume on December 7, while others may take longer to reopen their programs.
“School programs serving special-needs students at all grade levels will open to in-person learning starting December 10,” de Blasio said. “The plan for reopening middle and high schools is still being developed.”
“We feel confident that we can keep schools safe,” he added.
NYC Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that he supports de Blasio’s school reopening plan. In a conference call with reporters, Cuomo said, “I think that’s the right direction. We do have new facts and information on schools.”
NYC’s public schools opened for in-person learning in September; however, they closed again on November 19 due to a rising number of new COVID-19 cases in the city.
When the schools were reopened during the weeks, masks and social distancing were mandatory, with class sizes averaging up to 25 to 30 students.
The mayor said that many students who will return for in-person classes would be able to attend five days of class a week.
Every student will be required to undergo frequent testing for the coronavirus, which will be weekly.
“The idea of the hard number made a lot of sense back in the summer when we had not yet experienced all this,” de Blasio said.
The mayor said he had discussed his reopening plan with Cuomo, adding, “We all agree that we have a different reality than what we had in the summer and that this is now the way forward and the best way to protect everyone.”
Michael Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers, said the union supports the school reopening plan, provided there is a stringent testing plan.
He said, “This strategy – properly implemented – will allow us to offer safe in-person instruction to the maximum number of students until we beat the pandemic.”
Mark Cannizzaro, President of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, said school leaders “deeply understand the need for children to learn in person as regularly as possible, so long as all safety protocols are based on the guidance of medical professionals.”
In November, NYC exceeded the 3% threshold, but things have slightly worsened since then. In the past seven days, over 9,300 NYC residents have tested positive for COVID-19.
However, the number of positive COVID-19 tests at school sites have remained low.
The mayor’s spokesperson said that over 160,000 students and school staff members have been tested for the virus, but only about 0.25% of them were positive. The article originally appeared on Medical Xpress.