NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new social distancing guidelines for schools Friday.

Now, Mayor Bill de Blasio says classrooms can accommodate more students in person.

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“We are confident that we’ll be able to bring back a substantial number of students by the end of April,” de Blasio said.

The mayor, flanked by new Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter, announced more students will be able to return to New York City schools in person.

This comes in response to newly released CDC guidelines that reduce the six-feet social distancing requirements to three feet when coupled with other safety measures, like mask wearing and hand washing, allowing more kids in the classroom.

“We want to know parents who feel ready and are comfortable and so we want to open that window so we see where our families are,” Ross Porter said.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

Starting next week, parents of students of all ages can opt in for in-person learning, but the youngest students will be first.

The goal is to maintain the schedules of existing in-person students while adding others and allowing as many students as possible to attend school five days a week.

But even principals, charged with making this work, are just hearing about the plan.

“What types of conversations have you all had with principals prior to this?” CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas asked the mayor.

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“Those conversations are about to begin in earnest,” de Blasio said.

In a tweet, former teacher and City Councilman Mark Treyger, who also chairs the education committee, said, “Hearing from many school leaders that they do not have enough staff to operationalize the mayor’s announcement…”

The president of the Council of School Supervisors & Administrators released the following statement —

“Our city’s school leaders recognize the importance of welcoming as many students back into buildings as possible, and we thank the Chancellor for pledging the DOE’s full support to principals in the coming weeks. Once again, detailed plans should have been shared with principals prior to any citywide announcement, and it is essential that the DOE immediately issues further guidance as principals will now be responsible for answering their community’s pressing questions. Our school leaders are up for the many challenges ahead, so long as the city communicates clearly and empowers them to do what they know is best for their schools.”

In a letter to its members, the teachers’ union said, “We want to consult with our trusted independent medical experts.”

COVID VACCINE

“Over 40,000 educators have been vaccinated, but that number is, we all think, low, meaning we think there are many other educators who are vaccinated, it just hasn’t been reported in yet,” de Blasio said.

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Schools have been safe, as the COVID infection rate inside the buildings has remained very low, and students are struggling to learn at home, but how to bring even more back will be another difficult process.

Aundrea Cline-Thomas