NEW YORK CITY — With five months left to this school year, what will it take to reopen New York City’s middle and high schools to students again for in-person learning?
A record number of schools closed Thursday due to positive coronavirus cases in 293 buildings, the most since September.
Mayor Bill de Blasio still has hope middle and high schools will open before the end of the year as teachers get vaccinated.
According to the United Federation of Teachers, more than 17,000 educators expressed interest in getting the shots when the state opened up appointments to group 1B.
We asked Mayor de Blasio for updated criteria to allow older students to attend in-person learning.
“If we have a very different healthcare situation, we are going to re-evaluate everything and offer people to come back who have been doing remote, but we are not there yet,” de Blasio told PIX11 News.
Education chair and City Councilmember Mark Treyger says it’s more than getting the vaccine, it’s having enough teachers to be in the classroom to properly continue social distancing.
“I think the way to answer that question is to know how severe the staff and shortages,” he said. “And I think that that’s one of the biggest reasons why middle and high schools aren’t open, is because of the staffing issue.”
As of this week, about a third of elementary and special needs schools are seeing their students in the classroom five days a week.
“That means they have effectively gone back to normal,” de Blasio pointed out.
That number would be equivalent to the eighth largest school district in America.
But with so many schools closed because of rising COVID-19 cases, remote learning is still a challenge 11 months into the pandemic.
The digital divide is the main cause of learning loss. So far, the city has ordered 500,000 iPads, with 50,000 to still be delivered to students in need.
“The device issue is far from over,” added Treyger. “We still have thousands of children sharing the device when the promise was one device per every child.”