NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) – New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said all public school students will return to their school buildings come September and that a remote option will no longer be available.
Reopening the largest school system in the United States for the roughly one million students represents a big move towards the city’s full reopening and will be crucial to the economic recovery of New York, which has been battered by the pandemic.
“You can’t have a full recovery without full strength schools,” Mr de Blasio said on an appearance on Monday (May 24) on MSNBC. “More and more kids will be vaccinated, we’ve made vaccination available everywhere. It’s really time to go full strength right now.”
Mr de Blasio had long expressed his hope that kids would return in the fall, but it was unclear whether a remote option would be offered. As the end of the school year approaches, most of the city’s students remain at home. About 600,000 students opted to remain in remote learning due to health and other concerns despite having the option to come into schools when they reopened last year.
After new distancing guidance in March from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention allowed the school system to open classrooms for more students, nearly two-thirds of kids again chose to stay home.
Mr de Blasio said city schools would welcome parents to come into the schools starting in June to view safety protocols and get them re-acclimated.
“Anyone who has a question or concern, come into your child’s school, see what’s going on, get some answers,” he said.
He will also have to win over the city’s teachers, thousands of whom remain home due to safety concerns.
City officials have maintained that health and safety protocols have kept Covid-19 rates relatively low at schools, despite frequent closures throughout the year prompted by student cases. With nearly half of New York City vaccinated, the city’s hospitalisation rate has dropped precipitously to below 1 per 100,000 residents.
Mr de Blasio said on Monday that by Sept 13, he expects more kids will be vaccinated and Covid-19 rates will continue their steady decline. Kids ages 12 and up are now eligible for the vaccine.
Mr de Blasio said the CDC may drop their guidance to keep kids a metre apart, but that “we could make that work if we have to”.