De Blasio: No In-Person Learning for Upper Grades Until 2021

NEW YORK (AP) -
West Brooklyn Community High School principal Malik Lewis (L.) bumps elbows with former student Jason Cardoso, Nov. 19, in Brooklyn. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Classroom doors will open for elementary school students next week, but middle school and high school students in New York City won’t return to in-person learning until after December, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday.

“Obviously, from now until the [end of December] break, the focus will be on the younger kids,” de Blasio said on CNN. “When we come back, my hope is we can then move quickly to middle school and high school.”

The city will also prioritize children in special education programs.

The mayor said the staggered approach is necessary because of the amount of COVID-19 testing that is required to open schools safely amid rising infection rates across the city.

De Blasio announced Sunday that school buildings will start reopening Dec. 7 for students whose parents have chosen a mix of in-person and remote learning. Schools have been shuttered since Nov. 19, but de Blasio said weekly COVID-19 testing in all schools will make it possible to reopen safely.

De Blasio had said previously that schools would close when the city hit a threshold of 3% of coronavirus tests coming back positive. That threshold, which the city has exceeded in recent weeks, no longer makes sense, the mayor said.

“What has happened is we’ve proven the schools can be extraordinarily safe,” de Blasio said. “The schools are some of the safest places to be right now in New York City, which is a credit to our educators and our staff and our parents.”