NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Classes are set to resume in NYC public schools on Monday, and all systems are go for a safe reopening, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday.
Citing "almost non-existent" COVID positivity rates recorded in city schools by the end of last year, the mayor said the same precautions are in place across the system for the start of classes this year.
"We took every conceivable health and safety measure from around the world and used them all, creating the gold standard," de Blasio said, "using masks, the ventilation, the cleaning - you name it. And it worked."
The mayor also cited the fact that, unlike during the last school year, 65% of 12-17 year olds in the city have now received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine.
COVID testing will consistent in every school biweekly, even though it's not mandatory. The mayor says he's confident this testing will provide enough of a sample size to ensure continued safety.
Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter says 234 school buildings damaged by the remnants of Hurricane Ida will be ready by Monday.
Facilities staff say all the system's 1,400 school buildings are COVID-ready.
They are taking a layered approach, as they did last year.
To ensure proper ventilation, custodians will measure airflow in classrooms.
At a show-and-tell during the mayor's briefing at City Hall, officials demonstrated air purifiers that will be used.
And the Department of Education says each school will be stocked with a 30-day supply of PPE.
The city is also requiring all adults who work in the school system be vaccinated.
The deadline for staff to get at least one dose of the vaccine is in 19 days.
That requirement remains a point of contention, because there is no "test out" option. And there are limited exemptions for people with religious and health issues.
The issue between the city and the teachers union is how those who refuse to get the vaccine will be paid.
"If you're trying to remove someone from payroll because they are literally allergic to the compounds inside the vaccine, or their immune system is so compromised even though they're vaccinated they need a medical accommodation... the city's position is to remove them from payroll," said United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew. "That is disgusting, as far as I am concerned. And it does not follow the law."
The New York City Department of Education has responded, saying in part:
"The health and safety of New York City children and the protection of our employees is at the core of the vaccine mandate. We will continue to negotiate with the UFT to reach a successful agreement because that is what's best for our school communities."
Whatever the outcome, Porter maintains there will be no remote learning option this year.
"In-person learning is the best learning for all of our students," she said. "We are looking forward to having our principals and our school committees and the social workers that we've added to work very closely with families to get our children back in school."
Tajh Sutton said Wednesday during a protest outside City Hall that she won't be sending her 13-year-old son or 8-year-old daughter and she rallied for pushing for a fully remote option.
"A remote option serves the kids at home, but also kids in class, keeping class sizes small," Sutton said.
New York City teacher Annie Tan says she's worried with the delta variant raging.
"I thought I'd be a lifelong educator, but the pandemic has taught me that they don't care about us," Tan said. "They just really don't care about the students in the building, they just really need us for childcare really."
But Gov. Kathy Hochul disagrees.
"I don't believe remote learning is an option anymore, we will continue to work against that wherever possible," Hochul said.
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