What to Know
- Schools will begin a phased reopening as early as Dec. 7, starting with elementary and special education students
- School buildings returning to in-person learning, wherever possible, will transition to classroom instruction five days per week, the mayor said
- The previously set 3 percent threshold will no longer guide the decision to close schools citywide
After previewing the return of in-person learning ahead of Thanksgiving, Mayor Bill de Blasio returned from the holiday on Sunday to announce the scheduled return of public schools starting with elementary and special education students.
The first school buildings will reopen Dec. 7, de Blasio said Sunday. City officials plan to reopen public school buildings in a phased approach, starting with 3-K, Pre-K and K-5 students. District 75 students of all grade levels will get the opportunity to return to the classroom a few days later on Dec. 10.
The city is reopening schools in phases, in part, to make sure enhanced testing resources will be available for returning students. The mayor did not offer a timeline of reopening school buildings for middle and high school students, saying the city was not ready yet to open every school.
School buildings returning to in-person learning, wherever possible, will transition to classroom instruction five days per week, the mayor said. Before the suspension of in-person instruction, students attended school one to three days a week.
When the schools reopen, weekly coronavirus testing will be in effect for students and faculty.
The mayor estimates 190,000 students enrolled in the public schools will be eligible to return the week of Dec. 7. Returning students must have a parent consent form, the mayor said.
The weekend announcement was welcome news for parents who argued vehemently this week that their children desperately needed in-person school to reopen.
"We won. We're elated that the mayor heard the desperate cries from tens of thousands of parents here who really united to say that school never should have closed and needed to reopen right away," parent Mia Eisner-Grynberg said.
School buildings across New York City have been closed to in-person learning since Nov. 19 due to the city's 3 percent rolling positivity rate. The previously set 3 percent threshold will no longer guide the decision to close schools citywide.
The city is reopening schools "because we have so much proof now of how safe schools can be," de Blasio said Sunday. "We feel confident that we can keep schools safe."
The plan laid out by Mayor de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza had the support of Michael Mulgrew, president of the largest union representing the majority of city's teachers.
"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 a safe in-person instruction to the maximum number of students until we beat the pandemic," Mulgrew said in a statement.
Schools in the city's orange zone are also being eyed for an early December reopening. The schools in Staten Island's orange zone could open as early as the week of Dec. 7 as the city expedites enhanced testing requirements pursuant to the state's guidelines, the mayor said Sunday.
"We know that if you put a heavy emphasis on testing and you continually reinforce those health and safety measures, you monitor carefully with the situation room, we know we can keep our schools safe for the duration and link up to that day when we have the vaccine that changes the whole reality for all of us," de Blasio added.
According to the city's data, 1,636 new cases of the coronavirus were reported on Sunday. The current 7-day rolling average stands at 3.9 percent, the mayor tweeted.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo threw his support behind the decision to reopen schools in New York City.
"I think that's the right direction," the governor said a couple hours after de Blasio's announcement. "Just about every professional says the schools, especially K-8, should be kept open whenever its possible to keep them open safely."
The news of schools reopening in the city comes as the state continues to face a rise in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. The number of New Yorkers hospitalized due to the virus rose 3,287, Cuomo said Sunday. It's the highest number of people hospitalized in the state since May, according to state data.
New York's positivity rate climbed as well. By Sunday, the statewide rate reach 4.27 percent, up by an entire percentage point from Monday's report. 55 people died from the virus, the governor said Sunday.
New Jersey reported 3,800 cases of COVID-19 and 13 additional deaths to the state's count; hospitalizations also ticked up. The state's transmission rate dropped slightly since last week but it isn't clear how many people were tested over the holiday weekend.
Gov. Phil Murphy said he won't rule out a statewide shut down, but would only do so as a last resort.
"I'll tell you what would really make a difference here: a big federal stimulus sooner than later with a lifeline to small businesses, restaurants, folks who are unemployed. That would be a game changer," Murphy said on Fox News Sunday morning.