Students in 3-K, pre-K and kindergarten through fifth grade who have opted for in-person learning will return to school on December 7, while District 75 students, who have significant disabilities, will go back on December 10.
For now, middle and high school students will remain remote, the mayor said.
“Studies consistently show that younger kids are having less of a negative experience,” de Blasio said, explaining why the city is focusing on younger grades first. “And there’s less concern about the spread when it comes to younger kids.”
The mayor said he considered not only the importance of being in school educationally and socially at that age, but also how parents are juggling work and caring for their younger children.
“We’ve heard from those families, they need this back,” he added. “So we will get that up and running.”
By December 7, all students and staff who are returning will be required to fill out consent forms for testing, the mayor said. The form can be filled out online or printed, signed and brought to school on the first day.
The city will also increase its random COVID-19 testing of the in-person population from monthly to weekly. According to the city, the school positivity rate is 0.28 percent, or 453 positive cases out of 159,842 tests.
“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.”
As part of the reopening plan, schools will work toward accommodating students in person five days a week, the mayor said. That will include approximately 300,000 students who have shown up for in-person learning so far, as well as 35,000 students who recently opted-in earlier this month.
Superintendents are now working with schools to adjust their schedules as needed, city officials said.
“Our schools have been remarkably safe and it’s important that we’re taking good care to keep them that way while New Yorkers do everything we can to stop the spread,” said Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza. “Getting our children back in school building is one of the single most important things we can do for their well being.”
Dating back to this summer, the mayor and chancellor said they were adamant on reopening schools. Despite delaying the reopening twice, New York City, which has the biggest school system in the country, became one of a few major cities to reopen public schools.
Though COVID-19 infection rates remained low inside school buildings, the city set a “strict standard” that should the city’s positivity rate hit 3 percent, they would temporarily close schools.
By November 19, when the city’s COVID-19 rate surged back up to three percent, de Blasio kept his promise and shut down public schools.
In the past week, the mayor said he had conversations with stakeholders, including Governor Andrew Cuomo, to come up with a new plan.
Based on their experiences and low infection rates, de Blasio said he concluded that if the city places an emphasis on testing, reinforces health and safety measurs and monitors the situation, they can keep schools safe.
“What we didn’t know back in July and August, we do know now that these steps work,” de Blasio said. “And they keep kids safe and they keep the whole school community safe.”
The mayor admitted that parents were concerned and frustrated about schools shutting down temporarily, a move that even made him feel bad.
“I didn’t want to do it,” he said, “but I felt we had to keep the commitment we made and we had to come up with something new.
“We do not want a situation where there were constant changes,” de Blasio added. “We’re trying to get to something as consistent as possible based on real experience, which really has opened up the possibilities for us because we learned so much.”
In a statement, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said he fought to reopen schools with more testing and targeted monitoring.
“Now I am glad the mayor is listening to the overwhelming number of parents and education advocates who believe it’s the safe, smart thing to do for our children’s future,” he said. “Now we must also make in-person education an option for the older students who are being left behind by the failed implementation of remote learning.”