City parents will have another opportunity to enroll their kids in classroom learning beginning next week, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Friday.
The move came hours after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new guidelines that reduce school social distancing requirements from 6 feet to 3 feet.
De Blasio did not give any details on what parents will have to do to get their kids back into class, but the move would theoretically allow for more students to be present in classrooms and enable a fuller reopening.
“This obviously opens up a world of possibilities for bringing kids back,” de Blasio said Friday.
Families have not had a chance to switch from fully remote to classroom learning since a two-week window in November.
Parents have complained of late that the coronavirus crisis was in full swing at that point and that the entire school system was on the cusp of closure.
Calls to reprise an opt-in have intensified in recent weeks as families cite the introduction of a COVID-19 vaccine and improving infection rates.
De Blasio cautioned Friday that the the new window would open gradually, with an initial focus on younger kids.
“We are confident that in the course of April we will be able to bring back the younger students through an opt-in,” he said. “A lot of details to work out.”
While middle and high school kids will be able to opt-in to hybrid learning, their absorption into schools will take longer, de Blasio said.
Roughly 70 percent of kids in the nation’s largest school system are currently enrolled in the remote-only format.
While de Blasio signaled optimism, the city teachers’ union was more circumspect about the new CDC advisory.
Speaking on WNYC Thursday, United Federation of Teachers chief Michael Mulgrew said he was not prepared to embrace the distancing change just yet.
“We’re waiting for these experts to tell us,” he said, referring to a group of doctors the UFT relies on for medical advice. “And we’ll follow their guidelines.”
In a letter to his members Friday, Mulgrew echoed that hesitation.
“Once the CDC puts out recommended guidance, it’s then up to each state to decide whether or not to adopt it as policy,” he wrote. “New York City does not have the authority to change its policy for public schools on its own. We will be working with New York State health and education officials as they decide how to proceed.”
De Blasio repeated Friday that he is considering a change to COVID-19 school closure protocols that temporarily shutter hundreds of buildings each week.
Those disruptions, some charge, make it impossible for families to establish a reliable routine.
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