Coronavirus Update New York City: In-person learning resumes at NYC high schools, new opt-in information released

Coronavirus update for NYC
NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Monday was the first day back in the classroom for New York City high school students, marking another important milestone as COVID restrictions ease across the region.

At the Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice, students were greeted by one of the school's founders: Meisha Porter, who is now schools chancellor.

The return marks the last phase of reopening for public schools in the city, with about 55,000 students resuming in-person learning at 488 high schools across the five boroughs.

Right now, only those who opted in for in-person learning in the fall can return, with a majority of students continuing to learn remotely.

"The real thing I'm looking forward to is when everybody's there," teacher Ilan Desai-Geller said. "I can't say that I don't wish we were back in school, because I do. But I don't think we're in a position where that can be done safely and equitably."

Officials previously announced a new opt-in period for NYC school students, and Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday that it would take place Wednesday, March 24, through Wednesday, April 7, for all students.

He said 3K, Pre-K, elementary, and D75 students will return to classes in April once opted in.

"We still have more work to do for middle and high school," he said, adding that they want to know how many more students will be opting in before giving a timeline for their return to the classroom.

All of the reopenings will be based on the latest CDC guidelines for safe reopening, the mayor said.

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The announcement of a new opt-in period came after the CDC said last week that students only need to be separated by 3 and not 6 feet in the classroom, therefore providing more room for in-person learning.

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew sounded optimistic that more families are ready to send their kids back to class in person.

"We want parents to feel safe and have real security when they're sending their children to school," he said. "We only have 30% of the parents who have opted in, and we know that as long as we continue down the right path and show parents your child will be safe, we want to get more children back in school."

It was a different tone from Friday, after the mayor had announced that new opt in period, with the UFT feeling blindsided and releasing a statement to the press saying it would take guidance from the state, not the mayor.

"This mayor has come out with another proclamation without any plan or authority to proceed," it read. "We will wait for New York State to weigh in as we continue to do the real work of keeping our school communities safe and do things properly in these uncertain times."

De Blasio said he planned to consult with the teacher's union as the city moves forward to bring more students back into the classroom.

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