NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The holiday break has come to an end for area schools.
Some are delaying the return to in-person learning to allow families to quarantine, if needed.
But New York City public schools are back in the classroom.
As CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported Monday, both the mayor and governor say it’s safer.
After a two-week vacation, students at PS 452 were back at school, but many public school teachers are worried it’s too soon.
“This morning when we had our morning meeting, kids shared highlights from their break. There was a lot of traveling,” said Jia Lee.
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Lee teaches at the Earth School on the Lower East Side. On Sunday, the city ordered the school to stay closed for 24 hours because two people in the school community tested positive for COVID-19.
“The cases are just going to continue to snowball in the next couple of weeks, and the only way to prevent that from happening is to quarantine for at least two weeks so that everyone has the chance to keep the spread from happening,” Lee said.
But Mayor Bill de Blasio said he didn’t hesitate to send students back Monday, with the safety and testing protocols in place. He recalled 100,000 people in the schools were tested in December.
“The positivity level was 0.68 percent — much, much lower than anything we’re seeing anywhere else in New York City. So the safest place to be in New York City, of course, is our public schools,” de Blasio said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo agrees.
“If the children are safer in the school than they are on the streets of the community, then children should be in school.” Cuomo said.
Some schools are playing it safe.
Great Oak charter school on the Lower East Side started hybrid in the fall, but proactively went full remote after Thanksgiving, with plans to return Jan. 20. Executive director Brett Gallini said he’ll keep everyone home until the numbers improve.
“I have staff members that have brand new babies at home, and students that live with elderly grandparents, and we just don’t know enough to take the risk at this time,” Gallini said.
Thirty five thousand more New York City public school students opted into blended learning during open enrollment in November. With the infection rate rising, we’ll have to wait to see if some students will decide to stay home.
In a statement, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said:
It’s a real problem when the state and city use different measures to determine the rate of coronavirus infection. Given the fact that all the other communities in the state use the state methodology, New York City should adopt it also.
Using that state measure, if the community infection rate in the city hits 9 percent, the safe thing to do is to close the schools, even if the in-school rate is lower. Safety comes first — as shown by the fact that hundreds of our elementary schools and classrooms are closed temporarily every day because the virus has been detected. That is how we have stopped the spread of the virus inside our schools.
The real answer for New York is making the vaccine immediately available to all school personnel. We can’t let bureaucratic snarls and procedural delays endanger the safety of students, school staff and their families.
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