New York City schools, nation’s largest system, set to reopen in phases next month

In-person learning at some schools will resume Dec. 7, just over two weeks after system shutdown due to rising coronavirus cases

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In an abrupt shift in policy, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio‘s office announced Sunday that some schools in the nation’s largest public school system will reopen in shifts early next month.

The abrupt change in policy comes after officials were widely criticized for prioritizing economic activities like indoor dining over the well-being of New York City’s children when 1,800 school facilities were closed down to 1.1 million students on Nov. 19.

Schools are now set to reopen in stages beginning Dec. 7, according to New York Daily News.

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In-person learning at preschool, 3-K programs and elementary schools is scheduled to start on that date, followed by District 75 schools that provide special education on Dec. 10. Middle and high schools would remain closed, opening at a date still to be determined.

Read More: Cuomo orders New York schools to remain closed

The mayor’s office said the city will provide in-person learning five days per week, an increase from the previous several days per week.

There will be a boost in COVID-19 testing at schools, with 20% of students at each site to be tested every week. That’s a significant increase from the previous requirement of monthly testing for random groups of students. Testing consent forms will be mandatory for students to be allowed back for in-person learning.

Mayor De Blasio
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Everything else about New York City’s safety plan will remain the same: all staff members and students will still be required to wear masks throughout the day, and social distancing will be mandated.

Read More: Cuomo announces all New York schools can reopen this fall

According to the New York Times, remote learning has been disastrous for the roughly 24,000 children in New York’s District 75, a set of schools for children with disabilities who require the most intensive support, which includes students on the autism spectrum and children with serious cognitive delays. The parents of those students have spent months asking the city to get their children back into classrooms.

Still, there are about 176,000 other children with disabilities in city public schools, including many middle and high schools. It is unclear how many of those students will be able to return to in-person learning.

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