New York City must stay under 3% infection rate if schools are to reopen in the fall, mayor says

Credit: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

The city has its eyes on plans to reopen schools in the fall, but with a back-up plan to close schools if necessary.

Mayor de Blasio told reporters on Friday that the city is planning on moving forward with plans to incorporate a blended model of teaching for the new school year. The mayor stated that reopening will be based around health and safety first, and the city will spare no expense to make sure students, teachers, education staff and families are safe during the school year. 

“I’m not going to do anything when it comes to New York City public schools that is anything less than the standard I would set for my very own children,” said de Blasio. “We have to make sure that everything we do meets that standard constantly, and if it isn’t safe, we won’t do it — simple as that.”

The mayor stressed that even with the plans in place to open if New York City’s infection rate goes over 3%, schools will not reopen.

“Nothing is more important than keeping everyone safe,” said de Blasio. 

In addition to the blended learning plan, social distancing guidelines will be implemented throughout every school and students who are in the classroom will be kept together as much as possible. Face coverings and PPE will be available for free, and there will be priority COVID-19 testing for students and education staff. 

Schools will be cleaned daily and nightly to ensure more safety for those in the school building. If a student or teacher is symptomatic at home, the mayor says that they should stay home. 

“March was extremely challenging for all of us. We’re learning about this disease in real-time, in many cases with information that was not known,” said NYC Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza. “I also remember the fear and the confusion and the worry, so it’s important to me that we build on everything we’ve learned in these past five months and everything we have been through since then. We are approaching reopening by centering on health and safety as our foundational approach, basing our policies on the expertise of health professionals, period. We are focusing on the science, not science fiction.”

The city also has a plan in place in case a student or teacher tests positive for coronavirus. If a student or teacher tests positive for coronavirus, the entire classroom will quarantine for 14 days — a student, parent or teacher can report a positive COVID-19 case. If a student or teacher is symptomatic at school, they will have to leave the premises immediately.

A positive case will result in an investigation from the Department of Health and the city’s Trace + Test Corp to determine close contacts. If there is one case, or two cases in the same classroom, the classroom will close and shift to remote learning. If there are two or more cases in multiple classrooms, the whole school will close and shift to remote learning.

“As a parent myself, the safety and health of my son is always my highest priority. We’ve designed a tracing operation for our schools that puts the safety and health of our teachers, students and kids like my son at the center at all times,” said Dr. Ted Long, director of the NYC Test + Trace Corp. “

“The standards the city proposed — for protection, testing, and closing of schools and classrooms — are not enough. We need randomized testing of school communities throughout the year and a vigorous contact tracing system that gives schools test results and a course of action with a 24-hour turnaround,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew in a statement. “What’s more, even if there are stronger safety standards in place, we still have grave concerns about the city’s ability to enforce them effectively in every school. Right now, this is not enough to protect students and staff. “

Updated at 2:15 p.m.