The mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, announced on Sunday that public schools in the city will be reopened starting from Monday, December 7. Students in elementary schools starting from 3-K through to fifth-grade levels will be allowed to return to school for in-person classes from that Monday. The announcement is a u-turn from an earlier decision that De Blasio announced on November 19.
The mayor, on November 19, closed down public schools in the city following a spike in COVID-19 infections. The decision has been widely criticized by parents who took to the front of City Hall in Manhattan to criticize De Blasio for closing down public schools and leaving elite private schools opened for in-person learning. The public school system in New York is the largest in the United States based on the number of students it accounts for.
De Blasio also announced that the city’s District 75 schools for students with special needs will be reopened for students in all grades starting from Wednesday, December 10. The mayor stated that he has heard the agitations of parents “loud and clear” and is willing to implement their collective decisions once they are ready to play their part in keeping students safe when schools reopen, CBS News reports.
“It is very clear that folks wanted schools to reopen so that their children’s education will not be stopped, and that will be done once COVID-19 protocols would be followed strictly,” De Blasio stated. “Our Union partners have also counseled that we should implement more testing and get consent forms or medical exemptions from students upon resumption.”
The Democrat explained that it was right for parents to agitate for their children to return to school, but they had to be prepared to work with his administration to keep the children safe. He also shared the news on Twitter stating that in-person classes would now resume in the city’s public schools during weekdays. The mayor also explained that the returning students would be required to submit consent forms allowing schools to randomly test them for COVID-19 weekly.
Students who earlier opted for in-person classes would be allowed to resume from December 7 but students who earlier opted for remote learning would not be allowed back into the classrooms. In total, there are about 1.1 million students in the city’s public school system, 330,000 of whom are in elementary school. All 330,000 students in elementary schools in New York’s public schools would not be allowed to resume because of those that earlier opted for remote learning according to the mayor’s announcement.
The CDC Director Robert Redfield had earlier stated that students are safest when they are in the school according to studies carried out by the agency. Redfield stated that students from Kindergarten to grade 12 would be safe in schools as it has been noticed that students transmit the virus at a slower than adults do. One of the CDC’s early data shows that children between the ages of 5 and 11 transmitted the virus at only half the rate at which older children between the ages of 12 and 17 did.