NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Mayor Bill de Blasio is championing what he calls the gold standard for keeping students safe in the classroom ahead of Monday’s first day of school, which will be fully in person.
Critics, however, are begging the Department of Education to consider a remote option, CBS2’s Jessica Moore reported Wednesday.
Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter led a team of education officials on a tour, explaining how city schools are ready for 100% in-person learning.
“I’m here to tell you today that, yes, our buildings are safe, they’re staffed, and we have a plan to keep them safe,” said Kevin Moran, chief school operations officer.
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All city school teachers and staff must be fully vaccinated, with staff employing deep cleaning techniques, universal masking, social distancing, and ensuring fresh air in classrooms and common areas.
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said that’s not enough. He represents a significant group of parents calling for a remote learning option, a point the mayor has staunchly refused to concede.
“We seem to continuously try to choose the worst of the worst options and hope that the risk pays off,” Williams said. “Just start off with a remote option.”
Only unvaccinated students whose parents have submitted consent forms will be tested for COVID-19, and only once every two weeks. The DOE estimates that number represents only 10% of the total population.
“It’s not complicated — more contagious variant but weaker testing rules?” City Council Education Committee Chairman Mark Treyger said. “The mayor needs to be more stubborn about getting it right than about looking right.”
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But de Blasio isn’t budging, leading to question: what happens if parents refuse to send their kids to school?
“The only time that ACS will intervene is if there is a clear intent to keep a child from being educated … but we want to work with our families because we recognize what families have been through,” Porter said.
At this point, 65% of 12-17-year-olds in New York City have been vaccinated. And as of Wednesday, only 72% of city teachers have been vaccinated ahead of the Sept. 27 deadline. Those who don’t comply will be “removed from the payroll.”
While negotiations with the teachers’ union continue, the mayor said very few medical and religious exemptions will be honored.