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New York again reopens schools for in-person learning

A student's chalked message, 'We want school,' is written on a sidewalk in front of New York's City Hall.
A student’s chalked message, “We want school,” is written on a sidewalk in front of New York’s City Hall.
(Mark Lennihan / Associated Press)

It’s back to school again for some New York schoolchildren, weeks after schools were closed to in-person learning because of rising coronavirus cases.

The nation’s largest public school system, which shut down in-person learning last month, on Monday brought back preschool students and children in kindergarten through fifth grade whose parents chose a mix of in-school and remote learning.

“We’ve proven that we can do it safely, and parents want that for their children,” Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza told cable news station NY1 in a call-in interview.

Special education students in all grades who have particularly complex needs will be welcomed back starting Thursday. Middle and high schools will remain all-remote at least until after the holiday break, Mayor Bill de Blasio has said.

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De Blasio announced Nov. 18 that public school buildings would close because the city had crossed a threshold set earlier of a 3% positivity rate for coronavirus tests performed over a seven-day period.

The rate of positive tests is now more than 5%, according to the city’s figures, but De Blasio has said it’s safe to reopen schools with beefed-up testing protocols — in part because few infections have been linked to transmission inside schools.

A rise in COVID-19 cases prompts L.A. school officials to reverse course on reopening. For the rest of the semester, all students will learn from home.

“Our schools are safer than pretty much anyplace else in New York City,” De Blasio said Friday on WNYC radio. “So I really think everyone in the school community can feel secure because so many measures are in place to protect everyone.”

Since the beginning of the school year in mid-September, more than 1,740 students and 2,240 staff in the public school system have contracted the coronavirus, according to city statistics.

De Blasio announced Nov. 29 that school buildings serving younger children and special-needs students would reopen, with coronavirus testing increased from monthly to weekly. Masks and social distancing are required at all city schools.

About 190,000 students are eligible to return to school buildings Monday.

After closing schools in March, New York was one of the first large U.S. cities to reopen school buildings in September, but the majority of parents chose online-only learning for their children.

Children whose parents chose the hybrid model were previously inside physical classrooms from one to three days a week, but De Blasio said some students will now be in their school buildings five days a week.


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