New York City public schools will reopen fully and not offer a remote option for their roughly one million students next fall, Mayor de Blasio announced Monday morning.
The plan envisions a stark departure from the state of public schools as this academic year comes to a close, with 60 percent of city students having gone the entire year with fully remote learning.
“It’s just amazing to see the forward motion right now, the recovery that’s happened 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,” de Blasio said during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
The mayor pointed out that Covid rates have continued to decline as vaccination rates rise, which will continue to increase for staff and students. Children ages 12 and older are now eligible for the vaccine. As it reopens fully the school system will continue with many of the Covid safety protocols in place that kept the rate of infection under 1 percent citywide since October like ventilation, cleaning and mandatory mask wearing, de Blasio said.
“In New York City public schools, we could have every child 3 feet apart. We could make that work if we had to, but I actually fundamentally believe by August, the CDC will relax those rules further to recognize the progress that we’ve made in this country,” de Blasio said.
The move marks a change in messaging from March, when the mayor said that he expected to have a remote option available to parents. Asked what changed his mind at his Monday press event, de Blasio said that the effects of the city’s vaccination efforts have been more immediate than he originally thought.
“Vaccination worked ahead of schedule. It’s had even more impact than we thought it would. CDC has been sending very clear signals about our ability to come back fully in so many senses,” he told reporters.
With the decision to make a full in-person return, de Blasio is anticipating the scenario that parents will share the sentiment that schools are safe enough from the virus that they are ready to send back their children. The fact that the majority of parents have continued to keep their children at home through the second chance to opt in this spring reflects how they’ve gotten used to the norm of remote learning and didn’t want to disrupt the habits, he said.
To help convince families that it’s safe to return, de Blasio said school campuses will begin to open their doors over the summer to let families tour and observe the conditions for themselves.
“We’re going to welcome parents to come into the schools starting in June, see how much has been done to keep them safe, get reacclimated,” he said on “Morning Joe.”
In response to the announcement, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew released a statement that he generally agreed with the mayor’s push to fully reopen, saying that the union wants “as many students back in school as safely possible.”
He did raise concerns about the safety of a small number of students with extreme medical challenges.
“For that small group of students, a remote option may still be necessary,” Mulgrew wrote.