By M.A. RAHMAN
Mayor Bill de Blasio sounded jubilant on Thursday after greeting students at the reopening of the city high schools and middle schools, the latest phase of the staggered schedule of in-person learning in the nation’s largest public school system.
“We did something that other cities around this country could only dream of because we have fought off this pandemic back so well for so long because we have the will and the focus to bring back our public schools for the good of our kids, our families and all of NYC,” de Blasio said at daily remote press briefing. The City aims to have 500,000 students back in class by the end of this week.
The move was hailed as a sign of the city’s success in fighting the pandemic though, despite the overall downwards trend of infection since the outbreak in March, a recent rise in the daily infection rate had been detected on Tuesday, a 3.25 percent increase, the highest rate reported since June.
The authorities attributed the increase to 10 zip code locations across Brooklyn and Queens where congested activities and lack of protections have been prevalent in predominantly Orthodox Jewish communities. These areas accounted for nearly a quarter of infected cases while representing only seven percent of the population. and will be monitored more closely, de Blasio vowed. He insisted that the health and safety of students and faculty are of the highest importance and pointed to more robust tests and other safety measures in the schools.
Some 480,000 of the 1,126,501 students in the system have chosen to take remote-only classes, reflecting the fear of many parents that in=person learning was not safe.
But Department of Education Chancellor Richard Carranza called the reopening a necessary step.
“There’s magic that happens in a classroom when you see an adult in the classroom with children” Carranza said, stressing the importance of students to be present in a “stable environment”, free of distractions at home.
Carranza added that the decision to reopen also reflected well for other DOE employees like food service workers and sanitation workers who were ready to work.
“Day one will not look like week one or first semester but we will continue to perfect and get better,” Carranza said. “Our custodial staff has never been busier and our educators have been trained to enforce the strictest health and safety protocols.”
The reopening in New York City is being watched closely by officials in other big cities