East Harlem school closes due to COVID-19 outbreak: DOE

Coronavirus

EAST HARLEM, Manhattan — A growing COVID-19 outbreak closed an East Harlem school less than a week after the academic year began, according to the Department of Education.

P.S. 79 will close beginning Monday and will reopen on Sept. 28, a DOE spokesperson told PIX11 on Saturday. Students will pivot to remote learning during this time.

“The health and safety of our school communities is our top priority, and we do not hesitate to intervene to stop the spread. We follow stringent guidance from health experts to prevent any further transmission by quarantining close contacts, closing classrooms, and, if necessary, entire buildings. Learning will continue during quarantine and we will provide the school resources and support to have a successful school year,” the spokesperson said.

All of the cases at the school were staff members, according to the DOE, which linked the outbreak to pre-school orientation.

In a tweet on Saturday, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said there were at least 19 confirmed COVID-19 cases at the school.

“This is exactly what we feared would happen — and why a remote option should have been offered to parents in the first place. @NYCSchools @DOEChancellor @NYCMayor keep your eyes on the ball!” Brewer said.

The DOE updated its COVID-19 dashboard on Saturday to reflect Friday’s new COVID case numbers among students and staff. The portal also offers details about individual classroom and full school closures related to COVID outbreaks. 

As of Friday, DOE data showed only one school in the five boroughs that was closed due to multiple cases: P.S. M079 – Horan School in East Harlem.

Citywide, the DOE reported a total of 812 COVID cases — 487 students and 325 staff members — had been confirmed between Friday and the first day of school on Monday.

The cases forced the full closure of 367 inidividual classrooms as well as 266 partial classroom closures.

A partial closure, according to the DOE COVID Response Situation Room, takes place in middle or high schools where only some class members may need to quarantine depending on vaccination status since most students in those grades are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Full-time, in-person learning started on Monday for about 1 million New York City public school students despite the persistence of the highly transmissible delta variant of COVID-19. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio has defended the city’s decision to not offer parents a full-remote option this year, arguing that students need to return to the classroom for the development of critical social skills as well as their mental and physical health.

This story comprises reporting from The Associated Press.

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