Schools reopen only for youngest students

de Blasio hints, however, middle and high schools won’t return until early 2021

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When city public school buildings shut down after the weekly positive coronavirus test rate reached 3 percent, Mayor Bill de Blasio wanted the city’s 1.1 million public school students to return to campus as early as possible.

And he’s got his eyes on next week. 

For now, it seems the 3 percent threshold is going out the window, and younger students and those with increased needs will be prioritized for the return to in-person learning. 

School reopening procedures will begin Dec. 7 for preschools and elementary schools. Students in specialized District 75 schools will return a few days later, Dec. 10. As of Nov. 30, the mayor didn’t have a specific date set for middle and high schools to return to in-person classes, but reports suggest it won’t happen in 2020.

For de Blasio, prioritizing younger students is important in the new reopening procedures, because while remote learning might not be ideal for anyone, it can deeply impact both younger children’s academics and social emotional learning.

“There’s less concern about the spread when it comes to younger kids,” de Blasio told reporters Sunday. “And I feel for all our parents who are experiencing so many challenges right now, how important it is for them to have their younger kids in school, how important that is at that age, both educationally and socially.” 

The mayor and schools chancellor Richard Carranza also are looking to expand in-person learning to five days a week in school buildings where that’s possible. And that will be on option for students in those schools who opted for blended learning earlier this term. 

“For any school that does have the space and the ability to move to five-day-a-week in-person instruction, for those kids, that will now be the preferred model,” de Blasio said. “We’ll have in-person instruction for those who are part of that approach, (and) remote for all other kids.”

But with that expansion also comes an added need for coronavirus testing — which will now occur at schools weekly, as opposed to monthly. And those tests will now be mandatory for any students who want to go to school in-person.

“I want to emphasize this: Students will not be able to attend school unless they have a consent form on record, period,” de Blasio said. “This is something for everyone’s health and safety.

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