Mayor Bill de Blasio hopes to have an update for New Yorkers on when public high schools will reopen again for students enrolled in blended learning “in the next few weeks.”
The nation’s largest public school system was shut down for a second time last November after the city’s COVID-19 positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average reached Mayor de Blasio’s threshold of 3% — forcing roughly 300,000 students to take their courses fully remotely.
Since then, the city’s earliest learners and elementary school students participating in the city’s hybrid learning model have returned back to classrooms with middle schools scheduled to reopen for in-person learning Thursday, Feb. 25.
De Blasio has repeatedly said that he wants to reopen high schools this spring but remains worried about the presence of new and more contagious variants of the COVID-19 virus in the city. There have now been 59 cases of the new variant of the virus from the United Kingdom, officially dubbed B.1.1.7, according to city health department data released earlier this week. On Wednesday officials reported a COVID-19 positivity rate based on a seven-day rolling average of 7.15 % for the five boroughs and 3,241 cases of the virus.
“I’m very hopeful about reopening the high schools… I hope to in the next few weeks have an announcement on high schools,” de Blasio told reporters on Wednesday. “We’ve proven how to open schools properly. High schools come with some additional complications but I’m very hopeful we’ll get it done.”
Weekly random testing for the virus has played a crucial park in school reopenings in the city. A month after reopening schools in the fall, the Department of Education began randomly testing 20% of all children and adults in public schools every week. On Wednesday, de Blasio reported that the city has administered 500,000 COVID-19 tests to students and school staff so far and about 30,000 teachers and other school staff have received at least the first shot of the vaccine at a city-run vaccination site. Roughly 8,000 additional teachers have received a shot of the vaccine through the United Federation of Teacher’s vaccination program, the union claims.