New York City Council introduces bill calling for classroom capacity limits

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Thursday, July 29, 2021
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NEW YORK (WABC) -- New York City Council announced a bill to cap classroom capacity inside city schools over the next three years.

Council Education Committee Chair Mark Treyger and Council Speaker Corey Johnson introduced the measure, which would raise the minimum per person classroom space to 35 square feet per student from the current 20 square feet for grades 1-12. (Pre-K and kindergarten classes already have a 35-square-foot standard.)

"We are still facing a serious pandemic and there is an increasing possibility that COVID variants will be with us for years to come. To help make sure that public school classrooms remain safe places, we need stricter space limits for all students, not just the city's youngest," Council Education Chair Mark Treyger said. "The world has forever changed because of this pandemic and there's no going back. We need to ensure our city's building occupancy codes are up to date with modern science and public health data. The city is in receipt of significant federal and state resources to make this phased-in plan a reality."

NYC Council Finance Chair Daniel Dromm said: "I stand by this bill to cap classroom capacity because it ensures the safety of all students and faculty. It is important for the NYC DOE to prevent viral spread while COVID-19 still exists. The incorporation of a smaller class size will ultimately benefit the future learning and health of all NYC school children. Due to overcrowding in many districts such as mine, this initiative will be challenging but also worthwhile. I look forward to passing this legislation."

UFT President Michael Mulgrew said: "There are many reasons to support smaller classes, and health concerns are the most immediate. Making sure that we are not cramming too many children into each classroom is an important step to reassuring parents that we have learned from this pandemic, that it is not business as usual."

Under the new guidelines, the maximum number of students in a 500-square-foot classroom would be 14; in a 750-square-foot room, the total would be 21.

The restrictions would also apply to non-classroom instructional spaces like counseling and pull-out rooms, along with larger areas like art studios, music, and assembly rooms.

The legislation would mandate all schools in NYC to be compliant by September 2024, with 33% of schools compliant by the start of the 2022-2023 school year and 66% by the start of the 2023-2024 school year. The bill also requires the DOE to provide an annual report to track progress until 100% of city schools meet this new health and safety requirement by the start of the 2024-2025 school year.

The NYC Department of Education responded to the proposed bill saying, "We follow a gold-standard approach approved by health experts and class sizes are capped to ensure every student gets the individual attention and space they need. We're making historic investments to hire more teachers, build new instructional space and support smaller class sizes - we will review this proposed legislation."

Right now, the city is expected to follow CDC guidelines when it comes to spacing out students in classrooms which requires 3 feet of distance between each student while wearing masks.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said when it comes to vaccine requirements extending to children in public schools, that they are going to look at how everything evolves.

Also, despite the return of some restrictions as cases rise, Governor Andrew Cuomo is calling on state workers to return to the office by Labor Day, hoping private businesses will follow the state's lead.

"I understand the trepidation. But the numbers are down, we know how to do this safely, we need private sector companies to say to their employees, 'I need you back in the office.' Remote working for a short period of time, fine. But that's not how the entrepreneurial economy works," Cuomo said.

However, one company is taking a step in the opposite direction.

Twitter is now closing its offices in New York and in San Francisco just two weeks after reopening and will pause future return to office plans.

That is even with requiring employees to show proof of vaccination before returning.

Meantime, Google and Facebook announced Wednesday that they will require vaccinations when their officers reopen.

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