Mika Brzezinski: Let's get now to Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is joining us now. He has a big announcement to make exclusively with us about New York City public schools. Mr. Mayor, thank you. What's the news?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Mika, it's good news. New York City public schools, one million kids, will be back in their classroom in September, all in-person, no remote. That's the news I think parents, kids, everyone's been waiting for, to know we're going to be back strong, ready, safe. COVID is plummeting in this city, I'm happy to say. We're almost at eight million vaccination doses since day one. And it's just amazing to see the forward motion right now, the recovery that's happened in New York City. But you can't have a full recovery without full strength schools, everyone back sitting in those classrooms, kids learning again. So, that's what we're going to have in September.
The UFT reaction:
Chalkbeat has a decent summary on where things stand.
With the vast majority of students learning remotely, it remains to be seen how many families will be hesitant to return this fall, even as the citywide coronavirus positivity rate, at 1.13%, has reached its lowest level since September. Some parents still have health and safety concerns, particularly as students under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for vaccines and not all school staff have been vaccinated.
The announcement follows similar declarations across the country. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said all of the state’s students must return for in-person instruction next year. Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers, a national teacher’s union, also recently called for the reopening of schools for full-time in-person instruction next school year.
But some districts, including Washington, D.C., will make a remote option available if families demonstrate a need to learn at home. And Success Academy, New York City’s largest charter network, will give families the option to learn remotely for at least the first marking period.
Questions still remain about what schools in the nation’s largest school system will look like next year. Parents and school leaders are awaiting guidance from the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Preventions on social distancing, but de Blasio said Monday that he expects the CDC to relax social distancing rules in classrooms before the start of school. As of now, masks will still be required in schools, and some form of COVID-19 testing will remain in place, though schools will likely be selected at random rather than this year’s regular testing, officials said.
A top education department official said last week that roughly 10% of city schools would be too overcrowded under current distancing guidelines to welcome back all of their students next fall, but that the city was working to figure out alternatives, including using auditoriums and gymnasiums or turning to community-based organizations for help.