NYC Opens High Schools, Offers New Chance for Students to Return

New York City’s high schools opened on Monday for in-person learning, bringing the last group of kids back to their classrooms in the largest public-school system in the U.S.

Half of the high schools are now open five days a week. But the reopening will only affect about 20% of New York’s high-school students who signed up for in-person learning when given the choice last year. The majority of the system’s 1 million students remain in remote learning because they hadn’t elected to return to school buildings when offered the choice in November.

Families now have the option to change their minds. Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday a two-week opt-in period will begin on March 24. The expansion of in-person learning was made possible by new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday that said 3 feet of separation between children is sufficient to prevent contagion in classrooms. Previously, the guidance called for six feet of separation.

“The CDC rules give us an opportunity to opt in and get kids back,” de Blasio said.

The opt-in period would apply for students of all ages, but Porter said the school system would bring younger students back first.

Reopening high schools is the first charge for the city’s new schools chancellor Meisha Ross Porter, who became the system’s first Black female leader this month.

De Blasio said the city will be consulting with parents and unions on how to bring kids back. “We’re making all our decisions based on the needs of kids and families, and on the data and science,” he said. “We’re continuing to work with the unions productively.”

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said on Friday that the state, not the city, had authority over such policy changes on schools. Mulgrew called the CDC guidance “extremely complicated” to implement in New York City’s public schools.

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