More testing, looser class closure rules 1

Mayor de Blasio announced Monday that he would be changing Covid protocols in schools in a manner to allow for more students to remain in classrooms.

After the first week of school, the city is tweaking its testing and quarantine protocol.

When there is a positive test in a classroom, unvaccinated students who are masked and follow the 3-foot social distancing guidelines will no longer have to quarantine, Mayor de Blasio announced Monday.

The school system’s testing regimen also will increase from biweekly to weekly for all grade levels.

The two protocols will go into effect Sept. 27 — the deadline for all teachers and school staff to have received at least one vaccine shot.

“That will allow more kids to safely remain in the classroom. So, we’ve been looking at these two issues over the last few weeks, we looked at it in light of the data from the first week of school, we decided to make both of these changes simultaneously and they do complement each other,” said Blasio at his press event on Monday.

The school system began the academic year with a policy that involved closing entire classrooms of elementary students for 10 days if one person tested positive for Covid. As of Sunday, the Department of Education website listed 77 classrooms total as closed due to having Covid cases.

The increase in testing was met with approval from the city’s teacher union, but the quarantine protocol received no such welcome. United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew pointed out that while Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines exempt some students who have been exposed to the virus from quarantining, the exception specifically applies to children who have maintained social distance and consistently worn well-fitting masks.

“Maybe in the Mayor’s universe all children keep their distance, wear their masks correctly and leave them on all day, but in the real world of our schools, this just isn’t so, particularly in the many schools that are overcrowded,” wrote Mulgrew in a statement.

The new testing rule will only apply to those children whose parents have voluntarily submitted a testing consent form.

Last week parents across Queens told the Chronicle that they did not believe that even the schools that report they have no trouble abiding by the CDC’s guidance to maintain at least 3 feet of distance in classrooms are able to enforce the standard at all times, like when the students are lining up or walking through the hallways.

As far as the level of staff vaccination, a DOE spokesperson reported on Wednesday that around 80 percent of all DOE employees had gotten jabbed, while the share of teachers was higher at around 87 percent.

As of last week, an unvaccinated Queens teacher who requested anonymity said some colleagues continued to believe that the DOE’s decision to put those employees who refuse the vaccine on unpaid leave is a bluff.

At Monday’s press event, Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter said she’s not worried that the deadline approaching for her staff will cause staffing problems.

“We feel confident that we will be staffed,” she said.

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