The mayor says he wanted to replace the rule to close a school if two positive cases are detected.READ MORE: Driver Arrested After Car Slams Into Scaffolding On East Side
As CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis reports, for months, two positive cases in a school meant it would temporarily close, which parents tell DeAngelis happened at MS 442 in Windsor Terrace, disrupting learning.
De Blasio says that’s all about to change. This comes with mixed reaction – many DeAngelis spoke to just want to know more.
“A lot of parents have been really frustrated by this rule,” said parent Rachel Fee.
Fee is a mother of three. Her sixth grader spent months waiting to return to MS 442, only to be impacted by the “two case rule,” out of school for 10 days.
“My middle schooler hadn’t been in school since November until March and he came back for two days and then the school was shut down and he’s really struggling academically,” she said.
Fee was among parents collecting petition signatures Monday morning calling on the city to eliminate this rule, along with Council member Brad Lander.
“Where there’s a case of COVID the classroom needs to be shut, there needs to be really good test and trace. But we don’t need to shut the whole school building down,” Lander said.
The Department of Education says there are currently 104 long term closures in effect.
Good news! We are extending the deadline to switch to in-person learning! @NYCschools families have now until April 9 to submit their request online at https://t.co/3iKeZOaPLQ or by phone at 311. pic.twitter.com/30mlsAt7Il
— NYC Public Schools (@NYCSchools) April 5, 2021
“I think a lot of parents are sort of getting to their point where it’s turning into too much, and we really want some stability,” said parent Ashley Pena.
The mayor and chancellor say changing the two case rule will give that stability, keeping more schools open, but they didn’t detail the future plan.
“We’re working on what we think is a new rule. We do want to talk to all of the organizations, the unions that represent the folks who work in our schools,” de Blasio said.
“Speaking as an educator, the consistency will do wonders for instruction,” said Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter.READ MORE: DMX Dies At Age 50 After Days On Life Support At White Plains Hospital
Middle school art teacher Jake Jacobs knows all about the ups and downs at the city’s schools this year.
“It’s been terrible… We’ve been trying to make the best of it,” Jacobs told CBS2’s Jessica Layton. “My building just got closed down because of the two case rule.”
Sarah Allen, a first grade teacher, understands the frustration, too. She teaches at PS 372 in Brooklyn, which was shut down for ten days three times.
“I’ve been wanting it to be changed for a long time, too, but with safety in mind,” Allen said.
Allen was hoping the mayor or schools chancellor would announce a new plan, like more rapid testing or shutting down a classroom for cases instead of a whole school. But they didn’t.
“Instead, these families are hearing we’re throwing out a major safety measure. We don’t have a plan to replace this,” said Allen.
The mayor did announce the opt-in deadline for families has been extended to Friday. That means parents may need to make that decision before knowing the plan to address COVID cases in schools.
“I’ve spoken to plenty of parents who say we can’t opt in until we know what to expect,” said parent Justin Krebs. “The fact that these decisions are being made sort of sporadically and without consistency is leaving a lot of parents confused.”
“A proclamation is not a plan. The city can’t change the two-case rule without Albany’s approval,” the United Federation of Teachers said in a statement. “Thanks to the effectiveness and availability of vaccines, the percentage of adults testing positive for COVID has declined. But students now account for two-thirds of the new infections. We have been talking to our medical experts, and we will continue to discuss these issues with the city.”
The state health department says state guidance does not require that rule.
“Let’s just remember that the mayor is not able to make these decisions on his own. He’s working with the unions. So, it takes a village,” said Lynette Guastaferro from Teaching Matters.
Guastaferro says the conversation needs to turn to the education inequities facing children of color right now.
“My solution would be to demand five days a week of instruction,” Guastaferro said.
The mayor says he’ll outline his plan in the coming days, but did not say when. The union says any change has to take the safety of children and their families into account.
“I know that frequent closures because of the old policy have made many families weary of in-person learning, opting instead of the consistency of remote learning,” Porter said. “We want families to have more time to consider returning back to our classrooms.”
The state health department said, “Any school system that wants to change their operations should work with their local health department and ensure they have another community conversation.”MORE NEWS: Undocumented Workers In New York State Now Eligible For Pandemic Relief, $2.1 Billion In Aid Set Aside In State Budget
CBS2’s Jessica Layton contributed to this report.