New York City reopens 850 public schools after second system-wide shutdown

FILE PHOTO: The first day of in person school begins for some students in New York City
FILE PHOTO: Students wait in line for a temperature check before their first day of in person school at I.S. 318, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Brooklyn, New York, U.S. October 1, 2020. REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs/File Photo

New York City reopened 850 public schools Monday after Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a system-wide shutdown after the city reached a 3% COVID-19 positivity rate based on a seven-day rolling average two-and-a-half weeks ago.  

Roughly 190,000 of the city’s 3-k, Pre-K, and elementary school students enrolled in blended learning, in which students take their courses both remotely and in physical classrooms,  returned to buildings for in-person classes. Over 150 of those public schools that reopened Monday morning are offering returning students in-person classes five days a week, according to City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, a schedule that public school students have not had since early March. 

City officials have not finished tallying how many schools reopening Monday will now offer in-person classes five days a week but Chancellor Carranza assured New Yorkers that the Department of Education would release a total number by Tuesday morning. 

“It will grow with each week,” Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged during a Monday morning press conference. “There is work to be done to get the final number right and get the staffing alignment right.” 

Last week, Mayor de Blasio said that a “substantial number” of New York City public schools reopening after a temporary COVID-19 shutdown this year would offer in-person classes for five days a week. On Monday, de Blasio added that the city is working to have every public school offer five days a week of in-person classes although some will not be able to do so until the beginning of January. 

However, de Blasio promised that most reopening schools would be able to provide in-person classes for five days a week. 

“We’re pushing every school to go in that direction and the of those schools the vast majority can get to five days a week for either all of their kids or a lot of their kids,” de Blasio told reporters.

School reopenings are taking place as new cases of COVID-19 continue to increase across the five boroughs. City officials reported on Monday 2,180 confirmed cases of the virus and a citywide COVID-19 positivity rate of 4.98% based on a seven-day rolling average. In addition, City Hall noted that out of the 114 New York City residents hospitalized with suspected COVID-19 symptoms on Saturday, 54% testing positive for the virus. 

On Monday, Mayor de Blasio announced that he will no longer provide New Yorkers with the city’s daily COVID-19 positivity rate during his morning press conferences claiming that due to COVID-19 testing lag time the number has become “less pertinent.” Instead, he will only relay the daily COVID positivity rate on a seven-day rolling average. 

In addition, the mayor is adding two new indicators to his morning coronavirus briefings. The first is the city’s number of New York City residents hospitalized with the virus out of 100,000 based on a seven-day rolling average and the second being the number of probably additional cases of the virus across the five boroughs. 

On Monday, de Blasio said that 2.28 New York City residents per 100,000 based on a seven-day rolling average were hospitalized on Saturday and that health officials believe there are 616 additional probable cases of the virus.  

De Blasio also announced on Monday that school in Staten Island’s orange zone will reopen on Wednesday following state guidance and that district 75 programs, which serve the city’s most severely handicapped children, will reopen on Thursday, Dec. 10. 

It is still unclear exactly when city officials will reopen public middle and high schools but de Blasio hinted on Monday that middle schools could reopen as early as January. 

“My goal is to get middle and high schools back as quickly as possible,” he told reporters. “Practically that means January and when we have that secure, move to high schools.”