By Morgan Wright '22
The more than 1.1 million students in New York City’s public school system are currently in the process of a long and complicated attempt to return to school in-person after learning virtually since March 23. On March 15, Mayor Bill de Blasio decided to close all public schools to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep students and school communities safe. Virtual learning was difficult for most students, especially those who had limited access to the internet and technology. Virtual learning also led to decreased socialization and created a disconnect between teachers and students.
The start of in-person school was delayed twice due to a major teacher shortage. The public school system decided to separate teachers who would teach in-person and teachers who would teach online. Schools were originally scheduled to open on September 10, and then on September 21, and finally reopened on September 29 for most students, according to the New York Times. De Blasio said that the delays were due to revisions to ensure a smooth transition and safe return to school. De Blasio is requiring daily cleaning, social distancing in classrooms, and a mandatory mask mandate for students and teachers.
On September 29, hundreds of thousands of elementary school students returned to their classrooms in-person for three days a week. On October 1, middle school and high school students returned to their classrooms three days a week as well. Reopening schools comes with a risk of another spike in COVID-19 cases that could devastate school communities and the city as a whole.
As a precaution, de Blasio announced that schools would close again if the seven-day average COVID-19 infection rate surpasses 3 percent. As of early October, ten NYC neighborhoods hit an average of a 3 percent infection rate. On October 5, de Blasio announced the closure of schools in nine zip codes across Brooklyn and Queens. These closures set back the reopening plans of schools due to violation of COVID-19 protocols.