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D75 school in East Harlem to become first school to fully close due to COVID this fall

A student walks to school on the first day of New York City schools, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Brooklyn, New York, U.S. September 13, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

A public middle and high school in Manhattan that serves children with special needs will become the first school this academic year to temporarily shutter its doors due to COVID-19, the city’s Department of Education announced Saturday. 

Beginning Monday, Sept. 20, the 277 seven through 12th-grade students at P.S. 79 in East Harlem will be forced to learn remotely, according to a DOE spokesperson. Students and staff will be able to return to the building for in-person classes on Tuesday, Sept. 28. 

“The health and safety of our school communities is our top priority, and we do not hesitate to intervene to stop the spread. We follow stringent guidance from health experts to prevent any further transmission by quarantining close contacts, closing classrooms, and, if necessary, entire buildings,” DOE spokesperson Nathaniel Styer said. “Learning will continue during quarantine and we will provide the school resources and support to have a successful school year.”

New York City public school students returned to classrooms for the first day of school last Monday, Sept. 13 after 18 months of disrupted learning.

Just a week into the new school year, close to 70 classrooms have closed due to the virus, according to the DOE´s online situation room summary. 

But P.S. 79 will become the first school to fully close due to “widespread transmission” in the school which the DOE has linked to multiple school staffers testing positive for the virus during pre-school opening orientation.

The DOE did not provide the total number of students and staffers that have tested positive for the virus, although Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer tweeted about the rising number of positive cases in the school earlier this week. 

Under the city’s school health and safety policy, 10% of a school’s unvaccinated students and staffers will be tested every two weeks.

A DOE spokesperson said school staff is currently working to ensure all students are equipped with laptops for the impending school closure but did not go into further detail as to how students will receive their live instruction.

Grab-and-go meals will be available for pick up at P.S. 79 or parents can reach out to the DOE to request a meal from a school site closer to their home.

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