Mayor Bill de Blasio Thursday morning doubled down on his commitment to not offer a remote option for public school students this fall in the wake of more calls from fellow elected officials to implement an online option as new COVID-19 cases continue to rise.
“We are not going to have remote as we had it previously, I have made that very clear,” de Blasio told reporters during a press conference at the New York City Emergency Management Department. “Everyone is coming back to school.”
The rising number of new coronavirus cases mostly stemming from the delta variant is causing alarm among some parents, particularly those of elementary school-aged children, who fear sending their children back into classrooms could needlessly expose them to the virus.
The New York City Department of Mental Health and Hygiene Monday reported 1,981 new cases of the virus across the five boroughs, 64 COVID-19 related hospitalizations based on a seven-day rolling average and an overall positivity rate of 3.22%.
Earlier this week, two more New York City elected officials, Congressmembers Jamaal Bowman and Ritchie Torres came out in support of offering public school students a remote option this fall. Both statements of support were given during meetings with The Bronx Parent Advocacy Group, a group of Bronx parents that are pressing the City to offer an online option given the low rate of vaccination and higher than city-wide average COVID-19 positivity rate in the borough.
Despite these calls, de Blasio argued that after a year and a half of disrupted learning, it was best for students to return to physical classrooms. “We need our kids back, there are kids who last saw a classroom in March of 2020,” de Blasio said. “It is not healthy, in any sense, for our kids to be out of the classroom.”
While some students thrived in their remote classes, many students struggled to access their classes due to lack of internet access at home, a lack of internet-capable devices, or language barriers. Other students who were able to log on still struggled with the platform and many reported feeling depressed and anxious while indoors, separated from their friends and teachers.
During the Thursday press conference, de Blasio told reporters officials are still working out how to instruct students in quarantine without a remote option. Under DOE policy, students or teachers who test positive for the virus or show COVID-19 symptoms will need to stay home for 10 days.
“We are working through that right now,” de Blasio said, later touting a high rate of vaccination among public school teachers. At least 60% of all New York City public school teachers have gotten one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the mayor. As of Thursday, 50% of vaccine-eligible students have been vaccinated, Deputy Chancellor Donald Conyers said during a Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Council meeting. It is unclear if those students are fully vaccinated or have just received one shot.