By Mark Hallum
After New York City public school buildings were suddenly shuttered last week amid a citywide spike in COVID-19, Mayor Bill de Blasio has a new plan his administration will be implementing ahead of a scheduled Dec. 7 reopening.
Heavy emphasis on testing will require that 20% of students and staff are swabbed weekly, instead of monthly, and that consent forms will be required for all children who attend in-person learning, the mayor announced Sunday morning.
All public school classes were shifted to online instruction only on Nov. 19 after the city passed a 7-day positivity rate of 3%.
Under de Blasio’s plan, all 3-K for All, Pre-K for All and schools from kindergarten through grade 5 would reopen as of Monday, Dec. 7. District 75 schools would reopen as of Thursday, Dec. 10. A plan is still in the works for reopening middle and high schools.
“With these new measures in place, I and the entire team believe that we are on track to safely and successfully keep our schools open for the duration of this pandemic,” Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said.
About 330,000 students are enrolled in in-person learning and will need to have the form before returning to class which parents can submit through mystudent.nyc to fill out the form or the child can bring it on the first day of the return to classes on Dec. 7.
“I’m going to be very, very clear. In order for a child to be in a classroom going forward, they will either need a testing consent form on file or an appropriate medical exemption from a doctor,” de Blasio said.
Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said the plan had the backing of the union and were hopeful that proper execution of the strategy would see schools through the remainder of the pandemic.
“While schools in the city’s high-impact red and orange coronavirus zones will continue to abide by the state’s 3 percent closing rules, we are supportive of a phased reopening of schools in other neighborhoods as long as stringent testing is in place. This strategy — properly implemented — will allow us to offer safe in-person instruction to the maximum number of students until we beat the pandemic,” Mulgrew said.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a 2021 mayoral candidate, said the de Blasio administration was on the track to get stabilize learning for students in the five boroughs.
“We’ve fought to reopen the schools for our kids with more testing and targeted monitoring — and now I am glad the mayor is listening to the overwhelming number of parents and education advocates who believe it’s the safe, smart thing to do for our children’s future,” Adams said. “Now we must also make in-person education an option for the older students who are being left behind by the failed implementation of remote learning.”
While this plan only applies to Pre-K and K-5 grades, de Blasio said a more complete plan for District 75 students, middle school and high schools will be in place by Dec. 10.