Roughly 55,000 New York City high school students enrolled in blended learning will start returning to physical classrooms beginning March 22 with schools scheduled to reopen for about 17,000 teachers and staffers on the 18th, the Department of Education announced Monday.
All 488 high schools will reopen later this month and about half of high schools will be able to serve all or most of their returning students five days a week, a number that will “continue to increase,” according to a DOE spokesperson Danielle Filson.
COVID-19 testing at reopening high schools will follow guidelines at middle schools, where 20 percent of all children and adults will be randomly tested for the virus every week.
Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered the closure of all 1,800 public schools last fall after all the city’s COVID-19 positivity rate based on a rolling seven-day average reached his threshold of 3 percent. A few weeks later, 3-K, pre-K learning centers and District 75 schools, which serve the city’s most disabled students, reopened followed by elementary schools in December since younger students struggle the most with remote learning and are less likely to spread the virus than older students.
Although the mayor and departing Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said they planned to bring back older students shortly after the new year, the status of middle and high schools remained unclear until last month with middle school students enrolled in blended learning got the go-ahead to return to in-person classes beginning Feb. 25.
On Monday, Mayor de Blasio reaffirmed his commitment to bringing back all New York City public school students by September during a morning press conference with incoming City Schools Chancellor Bronx Executive Superintendent Meisha Ross Porter.
“I want this to be loud and clear: We are bringing our schools back fully in September. Period,” said de Blasio. “All systems are go to bring our schools back 100 percent.” During an appearance on WNYC last Friday, de Blasio said that the city plans on scrapping its pandemic blended learning this fall. Instead, students will have the option of returning to schools for in-person five-days a week or take their classes fully online.
Officials on Monday also announced all public school athletes enrolled in blended and remote learning will be allowed to return to practices in early April. Sports competitions will resume in May and will follow an extended schedule throughout until August, to make up for lost time the spring season.
In order to play, athletes will have to participate in weekly COVID testing and wear masks, and no spectators will be allowed during competitions or practices.