New York City public schools will fully reopen in September in person without a remote option, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Monday.
Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” de Blasio said the public school system’s nearly 1 million students and all staff will return to the classrooms on Sept. 13 for class completely in person, with no remote learning, a major step toward fully reopening the nation’s largest school district.
“That’s the news I think parents, kids, everyone’s been waiting to know. We’re going to be back strong, ready, safe,” de Blasio said. “It’s just amazing to see the forward motion right now, the recovery that’s happening in New York City, but you can’t have a full recovery without full strength schools – everyone back sitting in those classrooms, kids learning again.”
The mayor added that “COVID-19 is plummeting” in the five boroughs.
The announcement comes as more than 60% of the 1 million children enrolled in New York City Public Schools are still learning fully remotely – mirroring the difficulty urban school districts across the country face as they try to return students to classrooms more than a year after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
The decision, which notably will not allow educators to remain working remotely, comes a week after American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten called for a full return to in-person learning.
New York City is one of the first major cities to remove the option of remote learning altogether for the upcoming school year. The city’s schools have been setting the tone for the rest of the country’s big city school districts as they wrestle with how to safely reopen, especially for low-income families and Black and Hispanic families whose communities were disproportionately impacted by the virus.
The movement on school reopenings is happening alongside coronavirus vaccines becoming available for 12- to 15-year-olds earlier this month and de Blasio said the city has administered nearly 8 million doses of the vaccine since inoculations began.
More than 4 million children 17 and under have had at least one shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including roughly 600,000 children aged 12 to 15.
A whole host of questions still remain about how to safely bring all students back into the classroom, and school districts are awaiting updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding social distancing, masking and testing, which many expect to be relaxed.
“I don’t think kids need to be wearing masks outside anymore,” Scott Gottlieb, the former head of the Food and Drug Administration, said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
“I think CDC is going to have to revise its guidance around summer camps because wearing a mask is difficult in the summertime when it’s hot and I don’t think that the risk merits that,” he said. “In a crowded indoor stuffy setting, in a classroom for example, I think having kids continue to wear masks for a period of time is reasonable because you’re still not in a very low prevalence environment.”