De Blasio to reopen New York elementary schools in reversal
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) announced his plans to reopen public New York City elementary schools in a reversal from his shutdown of all schools almost two weeks ago.
The mayor detailed the city’s plans to allow elementary school and pre-K students to return to in-person learning on Dec. 7. Three days later, the city intends to welcome special education students back to in-person instruction, which de Blasio said needs to be “up and running.”
The in-person schooling will only be available to students who opted into at least some form of in-person learning this year, amounting to less than 335,000 children. Under the new plan, the middle and high schools would stay closed.
“Whatever happens ahead we want this to be the plan going forward because we now believe we know what we didn’t know back in the summer,” the mayor said during a press conference.
“We know if you put a heavy emphasis on testing and you continually reinforce those health and safety measures … we know we can keep our schools safe,” he added.
The largest public school district in the country will adjust its testing from monthly to weekly, boost random testing and require all in-person attendees to have consent forms to permit them to be tested or a medical exemption.
The city will also get rid of its 3 percent test positivity threshold that triggers school closures and instead keep track of the number of classrooms and schools that close after multiple COVID-19 case confirmations.
De Blasio said the city’s new “preferred model” is for schools to return to five days a week instruction, if they have “the space and the ability” to host and educate their children.
The change of plans come after de Blasio closed schools in the city as coronavirus cases mounted. The closure sparked backlash as several people argued that the city was prioritizing economic activities like indoor eating over education for New York’s children.
De Blasio pushed for the largest school district in the U.S. to reopen to in-person instruction in the fall but issues led him to delay the start of the school year twice.
But there is growing evidence that elementary schools can remain safe with strict coronavirus restrictions, as New York’s public schools had low positivity rates throughout its eight weeks of being open, The New York Times noted.