NEW YORK CITY — New York City school buildings will reopen under a phased schedule beginning the second week of December, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Sunday.
Students in grades K-5, 3-K, and pre-kindergarten will return to the classroom first on Dec. 7, de Blasio said. Students in D75 schools at all grade levels will return to in-person learning on Dec. 10.
However, all schools located in orange and red microcluster zones will have to follow the state's guidance in order to reopen.
The mayor said the city will address the future of middle and high schools at a later date. For now, those students will continue with remote learning.
Students will not be allowed to return to in-person classes unless a signed COVID-19 testing consent form has been submitted by a parent or guardian, according to de Blasio. Families can fill out and submit a consent form by visiting, mystudent.nyc.
Additionally, the Department of Education is moving toward having students whose parents chose in-person learning be in the classroom five days a week. De Blasio said some schools are prepared to offer full-time in-person learning as early as Dec. 7, but other schools will need more time to ramp up.
The update comes more than a week after de Blasio announced public school buildings would temporarily close as a result of the city's seven-day coronavirus positivity rate reaching the 3% threshold he previously set.
Students pivoted to all-remote learning on Nov. 19, just days before their Thanksgiving holiday break.
As schools prepare to reopen, de Blasio said the city is taking a new approach to monitoring safety moving forward. The city will no longer use the previous citywide 3% positivity rate threshold to determine the fate of schools.
De Blasio said the 3% threshold was very stringent and purposely set at the start of the academic year amid many unanswered questions and concerns about the pandemic's affect on schools, but the city has since proven that it can keep students and staff safe despite a higher positivity rate.
"We feel confident that we can keep schools safe," he said.
The DOE's so-called Situation Room will continue to monitor confirmed cases and outbreaks in schools to determine when individual buildings or districts should temporarily close, de Blasio said.
Also beginning next month, testing in every school will increase from monthly to weekly.
De Blasio said between increased testing, the COVID-19 test consent form mandate and the continued success of the DOE's Situation Room, he feels confident that schools will safely reopen in a manner that's sustainable.
United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew said the union supports the mayor’s phased reopening plan.
"While schools in the city’s high-impact red and orange coronavirus zones will continue to abide by the state’s 3 percent closing rules, we are supportive of a phased reopening of schools in other neighborhoods as long as stringent testing is in place,” Mulgrew said in a statement Sunday. “This strategy — properly implemented — will allow us to offer safe in-person instruction to the maximum number of students until we beat the pandemic.”
About 190,000 students are eligible to return to school within the first phase of reopening — a fraction of the school system's 1 million student population.
Some challenges are anticipated, Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said.
“It’s not going to be completely easy,” Carranza said. "A task for principals and school communities, but this is an exciting opportunity for those families who have chosen in person to have more days of in-person learning."
Not every parent is on board to send their child back to school. Fort Greene mom of two Marilyn Curry said she didn't think de Blasio's plan was a good one.
“I don’t think it’s safe for kids to return to school at the moment, especially with city being at the highest,” she said
Testing students and teachers for coronavirus isn't enough to keep kids safe, she said.
"They should be homeschooling and be safe instead of forcing them to go to school," Curry said.
PIX11's Magee Hickey contributed to this report.