The city will reveal a plan for reopening middle schools next month, Mayor de Blasio said on Friday.
After middle schools successfully reopen in the spring, officials will work on reopening New York City public high schools shortly afterward.
“Obviously, the big factors here are what’s going on with the variant, what’s going on with the vaccine,” de Blasio told reporters. “We want to keep vaccinating teachers and school staff and we want to deepen that effort but also it’s about testing capacity.”
Public schools were forced to shutter their doors again in November after the city’s COVID-19 positivity rate based on a seven-day rolling average reached de Blasio’s reopening threshold of 3%. The city reopened 3-K, pre-K, and elementary schools and District 75 schools, which serve handicapped children, the next month requiring that 20% of all children and adults in schools be tested weekly for the virus.
Since Jan. 28 alone, 127 classrooms have been closed due to a COVID-19 case resulting in 37 24-hour closures and 36 “extended closures” with 137 students and 95 staff testing positive for the virus.
Pre-k, 3-K, and elementary schools continue to close temporarily. Under Department of Education guidelines, a classroom is closed if a student, teacher, or staffer tests positive for the virus. If two or more positive cases arise and are not linked by classroom or cohort the school is placed under investigation and temporarily closed for anywhere between 24 hours to 10 days while contact tracers asses the virus’ spread.
The mayor has not specified how or when middle schools and high schools will reopen for weeks suggesting earlier this week that perhaps middle and high schools would not fully reopen until September.
De Blasio’s goal is at odds with the president of the United Federation of Teacher union Michael Mulgrew who has urged a slower approach to reopen schools that would require ramping up testing at schools in a Daily News op-ed.
“In-school testing that should provide an early warning system for rising infection rates is already strained, making it unlikely that the system could meet the challenge of testing a significant number of reopened middle or high schools,” Mulgrew wrote. ” New York can’t let its success in re-opening its schools be undermined by trying to open more schools beyond the city’s realistic testing capacity, or by keeping schools open in the face of a significant increase in community infections.”