More than 1 million New York City schoolchildren returned to the classroom Monday, many for the first time since COVID-19 closed the system in March 2020.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, hopes the reopening marks “one of those days we remember when we turn the corner on COVID,” though the threat of the delta variant and quarantine could pose a challenge as the system gets up and running again.
The mayor has been adamant about reopening buildings though some kids considered medically frail will be allowed to continue in remote learning. Schools will conduct surveillance testing every other week in which they randomly check 10% of students with their families’ consent.
Officials expect disruptions. Children younger than 12 years old aren’t eligible for the vaccine, and a positive case in an elementary school will result in that classroom’s students learning remotely for 10 days.
If there is a positive case in a middle school or high school, those at least 12 years old and vaccinated will remain in the classroom if they do not show symptoms — though should be tested.
Those who are vaccinated but show symptoms will quarantine for 10 days, while unvaccinated students will be directed straight to the 10-day quarantine but may get tested after day five and return by day seven with a negative result.
New York City is requiring all teachers and people who work in the schools to be vaccinated.
They have until Sept. 27 to get their first dose, although roughly a quarter of teachers and workers remained unvaccinated as of opening day, according to ABC 7 Eyewitness News.
City Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter said these employees have some “homework” to do.
“Let’s be clear — get vaccinated,” she said Monday. “Vaccinations are our passport out of this pandemic.”