NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- New York City middle school teachers are returning to schools in preparation for the return of students to classrooms on Thursday.
New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza spoke with Eyewitness News about the reopening of the city's 471 middle schools for in-person learning.
About half of the schools will reopen with five-day-a-week instruction, while the others will have a hybrid model.
The chancellor said parents should feel confident that they are doing everything they can to keep the infection rate low in the schools. Some 62,000 middle schoolers have opted-in to in-person learning.
"We've continued to keep our safety protocols in place. I think the evidence is overwhelming that we've been able to safely reopen the classrooms. The positivity rate, the latest positivity rate is 0.58%, so we're going to double down on what we've been doing: social distancing, mask-wearing, deep cleaning, disinfection, all of the things that we've been doing since September because it's been keeping our students and those who serve our students safe," Carranza said.
3K through 5th-grade students have been back in their classrooms, at least in a hybrid model at the very least, and some for five days a week, since November.
"The challenge with middle and high school is that there's a lot more movement in those grades. So, we've worked it out now for the middle grades. We're excited about them coming back, and we're already hard at work going through all of the very complex things that we need to take care of for high schools as well," Carranza said.
Now that many New Yorkers are getting vaccinated, the school district is compiling information to find out how many teachers and employees have been vaccinated.
"It's a complex issue because not all of our educators live in New York City, so we're working with other jurisdictions. But our estimate is that 30,000 of our teachers have received the vaccine to date, and of those 30,000 there's a subset who have had both doses," Carranza said. "We are very excited that educators have been prioritized and we're encouraging everyone to get those vaccines."
The 30,000 school employees who have been vaccinated so far include teachers, principals, assistant principals, guidance counselors and social workers. That number only includes those vaccinated at city run sites in NYC.
"The UFT represents more than 120,000 teachers, guidance counselors, paraprofessionals and other school-based members," said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers. "Even putting the most positive spin on the city's numbers, there are tens of thousands of staff who have not yet had access to the vaccine."
Mayor Bill de Blasio also said he hopes to have an announcement on reopening high schools "in the next few weeks."
"I'm very hopeful about reopening the high schools," he said. "Obviously, we wanted to make sure everything was set for tomorrow with middle schools. But, you know, I hope to in the next few weeks having an announcement on high schools. Everything's lining up - the situation with COVID, even though we're very watchful, watching the data and watching the science, concerned about the variants, but, overall, we've certainly seen improvement; more vaccinations every day."
The city has built up additional capacity necessary to test students and staff in schools each week, and they are ready for the additional high school students.
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