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NYC elementary students return to class Monday; parents demand middle, high schools reopen

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Posted at 10:40 AM, Dec 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-06 22:15:42-05

It's back to school — again — for some New York City children this week.

Students in grades K-5, 3-K, and pre-kindergarten will return to the classroom on Monday. Students in District 75 schools at all grade levels are expected to return to in-person learning on Thursday.

Public school students citywide have been fully remote since Nov. 19 due to a spike in coronavirus cases.

Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced students would return to in-person learning in phases.

Middle and high school students will have to wait longer for schools to reopen. The city has not yet announced a return date for those students.

As teachers prepare to welcome elementary students back, the city Department of Education is increasing its COVID-19 testing program in schools from monthly to weekly.

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All in-person learning students must have a COVID-19 testing consent form signed by a parent or guardian before they can return to the classroom, according to the mayor.

The DOE is also moving toward bringing blended-learning students back into the classroom five days a week instead of part-time. De Blasio said last week that some schools are prepared to offer full-time, in-person learning as early as Monday while others will need more time to scale up.

The mayor also did away with the citywide 3% coronavirus positivity rate threshold that mandated schools close in November. The mayor said the DOE’s testing program has shown that positivity rates in schools are lower than the city’s general population.

Between increased testing, the COVID-19 test consent form mandate and the continued success of the DOE's Situation Room, de Blasio has said he feels confident that schools will safely reopen in a manner that's sustainable.

Michael Mulgrew, president of the union representing teachers, praised the testing plan.

"The road to re-opening New York City’s public schools in the face of the coronavirus has been a long and difficult journey, but we now have in place a testing process that should permit us to keep schools open for our youngest and neediest children until the new vaccines bring an end to the pandemic — if all New Yorkers can pull together and follow medical safety guidelines." he said.

Parents and other community stakeholders, meanwhile, rallied in City Hall Park on Sunday to demand the DOE immediately reopen middle and high schools.

“Our mitigation measures have worked just as well in our middle and high schools. We are losing a generation of teenagers, and if we don’t act now, we will not get them back,” Mia Eisner-Grynberg, a public school parent and rally organizer, said in a statement.