Unvaccinated New York City public school students will receive remote instruction if they need to be quarantined after a positive case of COVID-19 is detected in their classrooms this fall, officials announced Wednesday.
Under the Department of Education’s health and safety guidelines, all elementary school children in a classroom with a confirmed positive COVID-19 case need to quarantine at home for 10 days. During that time, students will get live remote instruction from their teacher, Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter revealed during a City Council oversight hearing on this fall’s full public school reopening which took place Wednesday.
In middle and high schools, where most students are eligible to get the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, unvaccinated children exposed to a positive case will also need to quarantine for 10 days.
If a full middle or high school classroom is shut down as the result of COVID, students will learn via live online instruction from their teacher. But if there is a partial classroom shutdown, quarantining students will be given asynchronous remote lessons and the option to schedule office hours for all of their classes.
Office hours could include individual or small group tutorials, assignment check-ins, or access to an instructor to answer questions on class topics, according to the DOE.
If an entire school needs to shut down because of COVID, students will all learn via synchronous remote instruction, according to officials. The DOE has said public schools will be ordered to temporarily close if the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene finds evidence of widespread transmission.
According to DOHMH, the department defines widespread transmission in a school when there is evidence of “multiple sources of infection in multiple spaces or cohorts within a school.” Neither the DOE or DOHMH has specified an exact number of cases that need to be detected in a school for it to qualify for a shutdown order.
Vaccinated middle and high schoolers in a classroom that is particularly closed due to COVID will continue to be able to attend classes in person. But vaccinated students who are exposed to the virus and are symptomatic will also need to quarantine along with the unvaccinated peers for 10 days.
“As long as the teacher also does not need to quarantine a teacher would teach in person the students that are there during the school day,” said Lauren Sicilian, the DOE’s chief administrative officer, during the Sept. 1 hearing.
A DOE spokesperson confirmed that the department will continue to distribute WiFi-enabled iPads to students to ensure that they have access to online learning if need be. Since March of last year, the DOE has purchased 675,000 iPads to allow students to access remote learning, according to the spokesperson.