The city’s public high school students barely spent a month on campus before they were shut down again due to rising coronavirus cases citywide. As a result, they spent the winter months learning from home.
But with the change in the seasons comes a change in learning model for high schools, as the city announced Monday its high school buildings would reopen for in-person learning March 22.
High school resuming on physical campuses means the city is back where it started when it first tried to open schools last October. After the citywide school building shutdown leading into the Thanksgiving break, elementary and specialized District 75 schools reopened in December, followed by middle schools in February.
But while Mayor Bill de Blasio believed the focus on younger grades returning to in-person learning first was well warranted, he thinks it’s safe now to let older students return.
“We have all the pieces we need to bring high school back and bring it back strong — and, of course, to bring it back safely,” the mayor said.
“Why do we know this? Because we set the gold standard for the nation, and our rules became the blueprint for the Centers for Disease Control (’s) … own plan for bringing back schools.”
This year’s high school seniors sidestepped standardized testing as many colleges and universities nationwide shifted to testing-optional models due to the coronavirus pandemic. Next year’s seniors, however, won’t be quite as lucky.
But they’ll at least have some help locally to prepare for big tests like the SAT.
The Riverdale Neighborhood House hosts Saturday classes throughout March and April to prepare students for the May 8 exam.
Led by Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy teachers Sapphire Moran and Marita Keane, the prep courses are expected to cover exam strategies and subject-specific areas for the English and math sections of the test.
The course fee is $295, and students must purchase their own SAT prep book.
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Charter schools occupy a unique space in the city’s education landscape — they’re publicly funded, but independently run. But this different position made it difficult for charter schools to participate in coronavirus testing offered to public school students and employees — until now.
The New York City Charter School Center, along with five city charter schools and 10 families, won a lawsuit against the de Blasio administration last month, forcing it to include. charter schools in the city’s coronavirus testing program.
“The law is clear: ‘All health and welfare services,’ including COVID-19 testing, that are made available to children attending district schools must also be provided to children attending charter schools,” said attorney Amanda Raines, who represented the plaintiffs, in a release.
Many of the city’s charter school networks — including the largest one, Success Academy — have had to remain completely remote for most of the academic year. Whether that’s because of the lack of testing is unclear, but the recent ruling might make some fully remote charter schools in the city more inclined to open physical campuses again.
That’s certainly the case for Zeta Charter Schools, which has locations in Inwood and Mott Haven. And chief executive Emily Kim is looking forward to welcoming students back into its buildings citywide.
“In-person learning is essential for children, and we are thrilled that we can reopen our doors next month having the city provide school-based COVID-19 testing for our students and staff,” Kim said after the February ruling, in a release.