NYC Changing School Rules to Reduce Shutdowns for Covid

New York City schools are looking to expand in-class attendance by changing a rule that closed buildings for at least 10 days where two Covid-19 infections were reported.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the new considerations may encourage more parents to choose in-class learning over remote instruction, so he extended an opt-in period to Friday from Wednesday. The mayor didn’t say what the new safety measures were or when they would be announced or go into effect.

“We’ve looked at the data, we’ve looked at the facts and decided it’s time for a change,” de Blasio said Monday at a press briefing.

Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said de Blasio can’t change the so-called two-case rule without state approval. Students now account for two-thirds of new infections reported in the schools. he said.

“Any change to the two-case rule has to take the safety of children and their families into account, not the mayor’s need for a Monday morning announcement,” Mulgrew said.

De Blasio said new policies will lead to more classrooms and schools being open and a more stable schedule. The majority of New York City students are learning from home.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said recently that in many cases, schools were safe enough to reduce the space between students to three feet from six. De Blasio said New York City would follow that guidance.

The city has 1,481 open schools. As of April 4, 285 classrooms were closed, 13 buildings were shut down for 24 hours and 104 buildings were closed for at least 10 days.

The Covid positivity rate in the schools is less than 1%, city officials said. At least 65,000 of the more than 130,000 school employees have been vaccinated, de Blasio said.

“Our schools remained safe even as we battled through a second wave this fall and winter, which demonstrates that we can protect staff and students even when there is significant community transmission,” Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi said.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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