New York City public school families have new opt-in date for blended learning

School classroom with blackboard
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New York City public school families interested in enrolling their children in blended learning will have the opportunity to opt-into the hybrid model again starting this Wednesday, March 24, and continuing until April 7, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday. 

Families of students in all grade levels can enroll their students in blended later this week, but the city will work to first bring back children in 3k, pre-k, elementary schools and district 75 schools, which serve students with severe disabilities, next month with officials pledging to allow more middle and high school students to return to buildings in the following weeks. 

The city is allowing more students to potentially return back to physical classrooms after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently changed its school COVID-19 social distancing guidelines to allow students to sit three feet apart from one another instead of six theoretically expanding the amount of usable space in classrooms. 

Union leadership, however, was less embracing of the new CDC guidelines, with President of the United Federation of Teachers Michael Mulgrew urging the city to allow the union to consult its own independent medical experts to review the guidelines before allowing any enrollment changes.

De Blasio responded to both the UFT and the New York State United Teachers union by committing to following any order the CDC “under President Biden” issued now that the nation has medical leadership “it can believe in.” 

“We intend to have the opt-in period and then honor those who want to opt back in, bring those kids back during the month, April, by the end of April,” said de Blasio on Monday. “We still have more work to do for middle and high school. We’re still not sure about those timelines. But as I said, the opt-in will include middle and high school students so we know what their intentions are and then we’ll provide more information as we get more guidance.

This phased-in approach is nothing new.

After the city’s second system-wide school shutdown last fall, officials only brought back the city’s youngest learners, special education students and those in elementary school as more research suggested that younger students were less likely to spread COVID-19 than their older counterparts. 

The announcement coincided with the return of roughly 55,000 New York City’s high school students enrolled in blended learning. Out of all the city’s high schools, 488 reopened on Monday with most providing in-person instruction for five-days a week to all or almost all of their students, according to Mayor de Blasio.