NEW YORK, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza on Sunday announced a plan to safely reopen New York City school buildings for in-person instruction with more rigorous testing protocols in place.
Students in 3-K and Pre-K programs, as well as those in grade K through grade 5 who have opted for in-person learning will return to school buildings on Dec. 7, and schools serving students with the most significant disabilities, known as District 75, will return on Dec. 10, said the plan. Middle and high schools will remain remote for the time being.
"Reopening our buildings is paramount to our city's recovery from COVID-19," said de Blasio. "That's why we are doubling down on the safety and health measures that work to make in-person learning a reality for so many of our students."
"Getting our kids back in school buildings is one of the single most important things we can do for their wellbeing, and it's so important that we do it right," said Carranza. "The unparalleled value of in-person learning for students has been evident in the first few months of school, and we will do everything we can to keep our schools safe and keep them open for the duration of this pandemic."
By the time students return to buildings on Dec. 7, a consent form for testing will be required for all students and staff, and every school will participate in weekly random testing for 20 percent of their in-person population. Parents can fill out the consent form online using a New York City Schools Account (NYCSA) at mystudent.nyc or print and sign the form and bring it to school on their first day back to buildings.
NYC schools are safe, and the most recent positivity rate is 0.28 percent -- 453 positive cases out of 159,842 tests, according to an official release issued on Sunday.
Schools will also continue to work toward accommodating students in person five days per week. This includes the approximately 300,000 students who have shown up to in-person learning so far, and the 35,000 students who opted-in earlier this month, said the plan.
Superintendents will work with their schools to adjust schedules as needed with the goal of full-time in-person education in the coming weeks for the students who have selected that option, it added.
According to de Blasio, the city would abandon a 3 percent test positivity threshold that it had adopted for closing the school system, the largest in the country, with 1.1 million children.
"Whatever happens ahead, we want this to be the plan going forward," the mayor said at a news conference. "We know what we didn't know over the summer, we know what works from actual experience."
The announcement came as an abrupt shift of policy "in the face of widespread criticism that officials were placing more of a priority on economic activities like indoor dining than the well-being of New York City's children," reported The New York Times.
"Starting in the summer, de Blasio sought to make New York the first big city in the country to fully reopen its public school system," said the paper. "After a series of logistical and political problems forced the mayor to twice delay the start of in-person classes, the city welcomed hundreds of thousands of children back into classrooms about two months ago."
But less than eight weeks after school buildings reopened, the mayor on Nov. 18 again shut schools down as a second wave of the outbreak threatened the city and the city's coronavirus infection rate on 7-day average topped 3 percent, it added.
Later Sunday, the mayor tweeted that New York City's COVID-19 infection rate on 7-day average has reached a new high of 3.9 percent, compared with 3.64 percent recorded one day earlier. The rate topped 3 percent last week and has remained above the level ever since. Three percent is deemed a threshold to a second wave of the pandemic by the municipal government.
As of Sunday evening, the coronavirus deaths added up to 24,268 and the confirmed cases to 307,181 in New York City, according to The City, a project that tracks the spread of confirmed COVID-19 infections and fatalities in New York City, based on information provided by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the governor's office, The COVID Tracking Project and the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. Enditem