New York (Trends Wide) – Students from New York City public schools, the nation’s largest school district, are welcomed back to the classroom this Monday for full-time face-to-face learning, joining school districts across the country facing a new year. academic in the middle of covid-19.
“We have been working for 18 months to prepare for this day,” New York City Schools Principal Meisha Porter told Trends Wide in an interview Friday.
New York schools first became remote in March 2020 when the new coronavirus began to spread across the United States. They reopened for some in-person learning last year, but many students continued with a virtual option, even before face-to-face classes were disrupted with schools closing and reopening as circumstances changed.
This time, there will be no remote option for approximately one million students in the district.
Kevin Jacobs, a US history teacher and soccer coach at a Manhattan high school, told Trends Wide that he is “very excited to see the students again,” and said there are more advantages to having them at the classroom instead of online.
“Zoom wasn’t a great way to teach, and I think for the kids it wasn’t a great way to learn,” he said.
“I think many teachers, whether they have been working for a long time, like me, or they are new, maybe they feel like they worked harder than ever to get education online,” he said. “And that doesn’t suggest that we want it to be easier this year. To come back, there will be a lot of difficult things, a lot of new things to do.”
Mandatory vaccination for teachers
New York students eligible for COVID-19 vaccination (i.e. those who are 12 years or older) are recommended to get vaccinated, but there is no blanket mandate for students like the one advertised in the School District Los Angeles Unified last week. Eligible New York students who participate in sports and extracurricular activities considered “high risk” must be vaccinated.
Still, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference last week that 65% of students between the ages of 12 to 17 have received at least one dose.
However, there is a vaccination mandate for New York City Department of Education employees, who must have at least one dose of the covid-19 vaccine by the Sept. 27 deadline.
On Friday, Porter told Trends Wide that 74% of teachers had received at least one dose, and she is confident that all staff members will have received at least one dose before the deadline.
“This is a time when we are talking about the public safety of the entire community,” he said. “So I’m the biggest cheerleader – we’re going to get people vaccinated.”
The United Federation of Teachers said Friday that New York City teachers who refuse to be vaccinated and have documented medical or religious exemptions should be offered non-classroom assignments, citing a decision by an independent arbitrator. .
Other doubters should be offered unpaid leave to maintain their health coverage or receive a severance package, the teachers union said in a statement. The leave without pay would last until September 2022. If the teacher does not get vaccinated and does not return to work at that time, it will be assumed that they have resigned.
Keep students safe
The district has a number of other mitigation measures in addition to immunizations, including mandatory face coverings for students and staff regardless of their immunization status. Students will also be asked to maintain a physical distance of one meter when possible.
For students who are not yet vaccinated, vaccines will be available at numerous school sites throughout the city.
There will be air purifiers in every classroom, Porter said, and each school will have a 30-day supply of personal protective equipment on hand, including masks. But regular COVID-19 testing is another key pillar of the district’s strategy.
“We are testing our students, 10% of our population, every two weeks,” Porter said, noting that that’s the 10% of the student population who consent to being tested. With the regular testing and vaccinations required by the faculty, Porter said he feels he will “really continue to build that level of protection around our students who are not eligible to be vaccinated.”
Infections are unavoidable, and in those cases, the district is ready with a plan for quarantines and, if necessary due to widespread infections, school closings.
How quarantines are handled depends on the exposure and whether the exposed students are vaccinated: if there is a positive case in an elementary classroom, those students, who are largely ineligible for vaccination, will be quarantined for 10 days, during which time they will receive virtual classes.
For middle and high school students, who are at least 12 years old, vaccinated and show no symptoms, they can continue to attend school in person, but are encouraged to get tested several days after exposure. Those who are vaccinated and show symptoms will be quarantined for 10 days.
Those who are not vaccinated will be instructed to quarantine for 10 days after exposure. On the fifth day, they can take a covid-19 test and return on the seventh day if the result is negative.
But whatever happens, the learning won’t stop, Porter said. While remote classes are not an option at the start of the new school year, they are a tool the district is willing to use.
He pointed to Superstorm Sandy and how it forced school closings in New York in 2012.
“We now have a tool that allows us to be confident that our students can continue remote learning,” he said. “And we are going to continue to take advantage of that in our system.”
Polo Sandoval reported from New York and Dakin Andone reported and wrote from Atlanta. Lauren del Valle contributed to this report.