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New York City mayor orders schools to reopen again from 7 December

Oliver O'Connell
·3-min read
 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

New York City will begin a phased reopening of public schools from 7 December, Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced.

Pre-school, daycare, kindergarten, and elementary schools will return to in-person learning on that Monday, with special education schools opening on Thursday.

The mayor explained that the focus on younger children is “because we know studies consistently show younger kids are having less of a negative experience and there is less concern about the spread [of Covid-19] when it comes to younger kids”.

Having younger children return to the classroom will also relieve some of the burdens on parents who are having to balance childcare and work responsibilities.

No timetable has been laid out for a return to in-person learning for middle school and high school students.

Under the plan, 20 per cent of students at a school will be tested for Covid-19 on a weekly basis, an increase from the previous monthly requirement.

Consent forms allowing for testing will be mandatory for a child to attend school. As testing capacity has grown in the city, the mayor says that there is now enough to be utilised more widely in schools.

Students who chose a blended learning option will move to in-person tuition five days a week for schools that have enough space to accommodate them, up from between one and three days per week.

Mr de Blasio said: “Wherever possible we will move to five-day a week in-person learning. We want our kids in the classroom for as much time as possible. Our families do, too. We’ll work to make it happen.”

New York City schools were shut on 19 November after the city passed a three per cent positive test rate agreed upon with teaching unions when schools were originally reopened.

The three per cent threshold has now been dropped in favour of closer monitoring of schools themselves over citywide cases.

According to data from the department of health, the seven-day rolling average positive rate for the city is currently 3.9 per cent.

The city is averaging approximately 2,000 new cases a day — an increase of 33 per cent from two weeks earlier. At its peak during the initial wave of infections earlier in the year, the city saw in excess of 5,000 cases per day.

As one of the original global hotspots for the coronavirus pandemic, New York City was hit hard by the virus in March and April but kept new cases to a minimum between June and October, before a much-expected surge as colder weather set in.

There have been 311,920 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in total in the five boroughs since the start of the pandemic, and 24,260 officially recorded deaths.

Statewide, those figures are 639,200 and 34,049 respectively, with approximately 6,000 new cases per day.

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