The nation’s two largest public school districts will be open for in-person learning five days a week when the next academic year begins, officials said Monday.
While schools in Los Angeles will also offer an online option, New York City schools won’t have a remote option.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told MSNBC that the increase in vaccinations, decrease in cases and layering of health measures will make the classroom move possible. New York City has 1.1 million students in over 1,800 schools.
“It’s just amazing the forward motion right now, the recovery that’s happening in New York City,” de Blasio said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “But you can’t have a full recovery without full-strength schools, everyone back sitting in those classrooms, kids learning again.”
To address some hesitancy to go back to in-person learning, parents will be able to visit their student’s classrooms starting in June to see all the measures taken to reduce Covid-19 transmission, such as cleaning and ventilation, de Blasio said.
When asked whether schools will be able to maintain Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for school, such as 3 feet of social distancing, de Blasio says they will be able to do that but that he also expects the agency to make adjustments before school starts in the fall.
“We have proven that we can beat back Covid all over this country and school opens four months from now,” he said. “So I absolutely believe Covid will continue to go down, vaccinations will go up, recovery will be strong.”
In a question-and-answer session later Monday, the mayor was asked what he’d say to families who are not ready for in-person school. He urged them to visit schools and ask questions about safety measures.
“We can’t live in the grip of Covid the rest of our lives,” de Blasio said. “It may be yet another disease out there like the flu and other things, but it will be manageable. So we’ve got to put Covid behind us mentally, too.”
One group said remote learning is still needed.
United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew issued a statement saying the union has “concerns about the safety of a small number of students with extreme medical challenges. For that small group of students, a remote option may still be necessary.”
LA: Pupils who choose to stay home can learn online
In addition to Los Angeles campuses being open for the normal class schedule this fall, after-school programs for both elementary and secondary students will be available from the end of the school day until 6 p.m., Superintendent Austin Beutner said.
“Looking down the path to recovery and the new school year which starts this fall, all students will have the opportunity to participate in full-day, on-campus, in-person instruction,” Beutner said.
He said online learning would be available for students who are unable to come to school or choose not to attend.
Masks required in NYC, but LA policy not set
New York schools will still require face masks when they fully reopen on September 13, Chancellor Meisha Porter said during a news briefing Monday.
At least half of NYC public school teachers and staff are fully vaccinated and more will be vaccinated by the time schools reopen, she said.
Los Angeles likely will require masks but that could change as more people get vaccinated.
“But August is still three months away and we can’t predict exactly what standards health authorities will tell us are appropriate at that time,” Beutner said.
New York’s positivity rate has gone lower
Porter echoed de Blasio by saying that there would be no virtual option for students and that the school system will continue to adhere to the CDC’s social distancing guidelines.
“We would never take any risks with our most important assets … our children,” Porter said, adding that every school will be equipped with social and emotional support resources for students.
The Covid-19 positivity rate in the city’s public school system is currently 0.16%, Porter said. De Blasio says the city as a whole now has a seven-day average Covid-19 positivity rate of 1.13%, the city’s lowest rate since last September.
New York state has a 0.9% seven-day average positivity rate, the lowest since September, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.
Children statewide should be back in school full time in September, he said.
Schools have been reopening
New York City’s public schools closed for in-person classes at the start of the pandemic in March 2020 and then reopened in September for in-person classes.
The district stopped in-person classes in November when the city’s seven-day average reached a 3% positive testing threshold.
Schools began reopening in December, starting with elementary schools. The push to reopen school for younger age groups occurred because they had struggled most with online learning and they appeared to have the lowest rate of coronavirus spread.
New York City’s public high schools reopened for in-person learning in March and middle schools reopened in February.
Los Angeles schools began reopening schools in April with additional safety measures, including upgraded air filtration systems and personal protective equipment.
The district also has a school-based Covid-19 testing and contact tracing program.
CNN’s Lauren del Valle, Steve Almasy and Sarah Moon, contributed to this report.