Keeping a million New York students safe with the Delta variant

At the end of his term, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio put much of his legacy on reopening schools during the pandemic, placing clas...

At the end of his term, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio put much of his legacy on reopening schools during the pandemic, placing classroom learning at the center of his drive to get the city back on track.

On Thursday, the mayor presented a security plan aimed at reassuring parents and educators worried about going back to class, with different sets of rules for vaccinated and unvaccinated students, just days after announcing a vaccination mandate for all school staff.

The announcement is part of Mr de Blasio’s efforts to prove that the city can keep the country’s largest school district safe, even without distance learning possibility, amid the spread of the more contagious Delta variant, and with about 600,000 more children in classrooms. About 350,000 students opted for in-person learning last year at some point during the blended school year.

“Think of a child who hasn’t been in a classroom for a year and a half; this is not supposed to happen, we cannot let it happen anymore, ”Mr de Blasio said at a press conference on Thursday.

M. de Blasio aims to avoid the fierce fights on masks and school vaccinations that have shaken so many other areas, as districts across the country have adopted a range of approaches in response to the threat from Delta. Some plans were shaped heavily by politics, as some relatives in districts controlled by Republican mayors and governors pushed back on the restrictions.

Parents in a district south of Nashville reprimanded and threatened education officials there for approving a mask mandate for schools. But Los Angeles is embark on a massive effort to test every student and school staff every week. Many neighborhoods are somewhere in the middle. a increasing number of districts have adopted mask warrants in recent weeks as large-scale quarantines have disrupted learning.

In New York City, where masks have been mandatory since last year, many parents have called for strict measures. M. de Blasio’s announcement is unlikely to satisfy all hesitant families.

“When we found out that we were bringing back a million kids with the raging Delta, with half the population unvaccinated, we should be doing more, not less, and that’s where I’m frustrated,” said Kelly Verel, a parent from Brooklyn, about the town plan.

Ms. Verel, who has a child with asthma, can’t wait for her children to finally return to class. But she said she wanted more details from the city on the distancing in common spaces like cafeterias and on the use of outdoor school space.

The city’s delay in announcing its plans until the end of the summer has heightened parents’ anxiety over the full return to classrooms.

Thursday’s announcement highlights the precarious balance the city is trying to strike to keep students and staff safe while minimizing disruption to learning. Perhaps surprisingly, the city is cutting its virus testing program in schools. This year, 10% of unvaccinated students will be tested every two weeks. Last year, the city initially tested 10% of all people in schools each week, but increased to 20% each week in the spring, when the mayor relaxed quarantine rules.

Mr de Blasio insisted there would be fewer quarantines than last year, when buildings closed so frequently that parents argued schools were barely open despite a low overall positive test rate . Now, when a person in a classroom tests positive, only close unvaccinated contacts will need to be quarantined for 10 days, although the city has not set a close contact.

An entire class in an elementary school will temporarily switch to distance learning when a student tests positive. It is still likely that there will be frequent closures of classrooms for primary schools.

Middle school and high school students who are not vaccinated and are considered close contacts of an infected person can take an out-of-quarantine test earlier if they test negative five days after starting their quarantine.

There will no longer be a threshold for the number of positive cases which will automatically trigger a complete school closure. Instead, buildings will close for 10 days if there is evidence of widespread transmission as determined by city disease detectives.

Elementary students who learn at home during quarantine will receive live online instructions from their teachers, but older quarantined students will not.

The city is also planning to expand an existing program that allows medically vulnerable children to get a few hours of in-person home instruction per week.

New York has also improved ventilation over the past year and will be sending two air purifiers to every classroom. City officials said there would be three feet of distance between students in more than 90 percent of classrooms, but less in particularly crowded schools. These schools can use an annex space or staggered hours to maintain at least a certain distance.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised that schools maintain distance where possible, but that in-person learning should take priority. Public health experts have said less than three feet away can be safe, provided other safety protocols are followed.

Unlike last summer, the city was given both time and money to facilitate the reopening, thanks to an influx of federal dollars funneled into districts by the Biden administration. But the mayor had not made any major announcements about schools between May and earlier this week, when he noted that all education ministry staff, including teachers, should receive at least their first injection of a coronavirus vaccine by September 27.

New security details announced this week are unlikely to quell growing calls for a distance learning option.

Elected officials, including a group of city council members and the presidents of the boroughs of Queens and Manhattan, urged the mayor to create an e-learning option, at least for children under 12 who cannot still be vaccinated. They have been joined by some parents who say they would consider homeschooling their children rather than sending them back to classrooms.

Washington, DC and Chicago, like New York, require almost all students to return to class, but have created a small online learning option for immunocompromised children. But many other major neighborhoods, including Los Angeles, Miami and Las Vegas, will retain some sort of virtual option, including for students without major health issues. But the vast majority of parents in these districts have opted for in-person schooling.

Mr de Blasio is betting that increased support for parents ‘in-person learning compared to last year – along with membership of the teachers’ union and city directors – will strengthen his argument against reestablishing the school. distance learning.

Union leaders believe both face-to-face learning is superior and that creating an online learning option would once again create a logistical nightmare for their members. On Thursday, the United Teachers’ Federation said it agrees with the city’s safety plan, but is still negotiating with city hall on exactly how distance learning works when students are put in. quarantine.

Mr de Blasio’s decision to eliminate distance learning puts even more pressure on this year’s school safety protocols. The city’s new test plan may invite scrutiny, especially compared to other districts.

Los Angeles, the second largest school district in the country, spent last year Build a massive $ 350 million school testing operation to test every student and staff member every week. Chicago, the third largest school system, will test each student every week.

The districts of Massachusetts and Maryland are trying to significantly expand testing in schools by pooling samples. Nasal swab samples from 10 or more students in the same class are mixed and tested as a single sample to see if anyone in the class might be infected.

In recent weeks, New York City officials have begun to realize that its limited testing capacity could appear to be a weakness in the city’s plans to keep schools in a relatively weak environment. risk for the transmission of the coronavirus. City officials have tried to buy millions more tests and increase schools’ testing capacity, but face supply shortage after major test maker destroys a large part of its inventory.

The weekly 10% test of students could provide useful information about how much virus is circulating among students, said Dr Denis Nash, epidemiologist at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy.

“What you can’t do with 10 percent is reduce the number of infections,” he said. Still, Dr Nash said he did not foresee that schools would be a significant source of transmission, as long as other safety precautions were followed, including wearing masks and ventilation.

Dr Kitaw Demissie, dean of the School of Public Health at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, said given the importance of in-person schooling, he believes testing should be stepped up. “Weekly screening of everyone coming to school would be the best strategy,” he said.

The mayor defended the plan on Thursday, saying the city does not need as many tests with all staff and many students vaccinated. He said the city had seen an increase in the number of students getting vaccinated over the past six weeks, and noted that the city could increase testing in schools or neighborhoods as needed.

More than half of eligible New York City children aged 12 and older have received at least one dose of Pfizer vaccine. It is not known how many of these children are public school students.

While 88 percent of Asian teens aged 13 to 17 are fully immunized, only 22 percent of black teens and 36 percent of Latino teens in this age range are fully immunized. This means that some schools are much more susceptible to epidemics than others, given the racial segregation of urban schools.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Keeping a million New York students safe with the Delta variant
Keeping a million New York students safe with the Delta variant
Newsrust - US Top News
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