Schools reopening amid pandemic the main issue for Hochul, NYC City Council, parents

Reopening Schools

NEW YORK — September begins Wednesday. It’s a month which, of course, ushers in the start of school for New York City’s 1 million public school students.  

With the countdown underway in the city, and throughout New York state, many questions persist for families about reopening during a lingering pandemic that’s become all the more intense with the delta variant circulating.

It’s why New York City Council Education Committee Chair Mark Treyger will be leading a hearing on Wednesday on the reopening process. He announced this week to PIX11 News that Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter and Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi will both be testifying.

He said that the city had left many questions about the reopening process unanswered.  

“A lot of the city’s health protocols center around who’s vaccinated,” Treyger said in an interview with the PIX11 Morning News on Tuesday. 

“Many parents aren’t aware that they can indicate their child’s vaccination through an online portal,” he continued. “Many folks had no idea about this.”

He went on to say that he was concerned about how COVID testing at schools is slated to be carried out.

“They’re supposed to test 10% of unvaccinated students twice a month,” Treyger pointed out but added, “We’re a few weeks away from the start of school… [and] we don’t know who’s vaccinated, we don’t know who has to quarantine. So we have even bigger issues and concerns at this hour.”  

He said that he’d press the chancellor and health commissioner on those issues at Wednesday’s hearing. 

When asked about some of the issues Treyger raised, Mayor Bill de Blasio said during his daily news conference that full information regarding the return to the school year is in the city’s reopening plan released last Thursday. 

“It’s out there, parents have it,” the mayor said. “Happy to see Dr. Chokshi and Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter go over that again at the hearing, but we really feel we’ve answered a very, very broad range of questions.”

Dr. Chokshi also commented at the daily briefing. 

“We’ll go over the information that we have released,” he said, “and answer any other questions that are forthcoming.”

At the state level, Gov. Kathy Hochul focused on school reopening during a COVID presentation in Buffalo on Tuesday morning.

She admitted that while she doesn’t have the kind of emergency executive powers that the state legislature had granted to former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whom she replaced, she would still advocate for strong anti-COVID measures.

“Our school staff,” she said during an appearance at the University at Buffalo, “anybody who enters that building, will have to be vaccinated, or undergo mandatory testing.”

“We’re in the process of getting the legal clearance for that as I speak,” she continued.

In her presentation, she also emphasized that improved COVID rates in parts of the state will be able to change her policies.  

“I’m not leaving open-ended mandates,” the governor said. “We’ll do it now, and we’ll assess. There’ll be parts of our state where numbers drop.”

“Circumstances are going to change in some areas,” Hochul went on to say. “So I’ll be very flexible in allowing localities to talk to me about what’s happening on the ground in their communities,” she said.

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