Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday that New York City high school classrooms will be opened up to students on March 22.
The move to reopen schools comes as other large school districts in the country continue to struggle finding a way to get students back into classrooms.
It also comes, however, as fears of new COVID-19 variants spread in the city, potentially endangering the reopening before it even begins.
Approximately 55,000 high school students opted-in to in-person learning earlier in the school year, but they haven’t been able to attend school since buildings were closed in November when the city hit a three percent positivity test rate.
New York City high school students are preparing to return to the classroom on March 22. Pictured: West Brooklyn Community High School students at school in October 2020
Mayor Bill de Blasio also plans on reopening schools fully for the next school year
Before that, students were shuffling between remote and in-person learning regularly as virus outbreaks kept schools on their toes.
New York City schools were first closed due to the pandemic on March 15 and later forced to remain shuttered for the rest of that academic year.
An agreement with the teachers unions allowed schools to be reopened in late September, but closures across the district soon followed.
‘There’s so many reasons we need them to be back where loving, caring adults, trained professionals are there to support them,’ Mayor de Blasio said during his remarks Monday.
While the schools will be open on March 22, not every school will be moving to a full-time in-person instruction schedule.
Pictured: Graduating seniors pose for photographs at Brooklyn Bridge Park in June 2020
Around half of the schools will provide full-time instruction to in-person students, while the other half will have hybrid instruction.
NY1 reports staff at the reopening high schools will return to work in the days leading up to March 22.
There are around 282,000 high school students in the district, meaning less than one in five high school students will be attending in-person learning.
‘My priority as chancellor is to open, open, open,’ incoming schools chancellor Meisha Porter, who is set to assume her role on March 15, said Monday.
‘And I’m thrilled that we are making good on that.’
Incoming New York City Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter will be assuming her role on March 15, making the reopening of high schools in the city her first major task
Elementary school students who signed up for in-person learning returned in December, while middle school students came back in February.
High school students will have about three months of in-person learning, as the school year is set to end on June 25.
‘A few months seems like a gift,’ high school senior Meril Mousoom told the Times.
High school athletes who compete in sports will see their seasons start in the spring and continue on into the summer.
‘All sports, but with strict safety protocols with a phase-in to make sure our student athletes are ready to make sure it’s done safely,’ Mayor de Blasio said on Monday.
Strength and conditioning will begin in April, while play will begin in May. Even students choosing to learn remotely will be eligible to play.
Pictured: Students leaving Stuyvesant High School before schools were closed last March
Weekly testing will be mandatory and spectators will not be allowed to attend competition.
Right now, nobody who declined to opt-out of in-person learning in the fall will be permitted to reverse course, though that could change in the future, according to the New York Times.
Additionally, the plan is for schools to operate as close to normal as possible when the 2021-22 school year begins in the fall.
‘We are bringing our schools back fully in September, period,’ Mayor de Blasio said on Monday.
Some high schools in the city have been used as vaccination centers, which made it harder to reopen them to the public and transition away from being a vaccine hub.
Appointments will be honored at high schools after school hours beginning March 22 and for all hours during spring break before the appointments are moved elsewhere beginning in April.
Reopening the high schools may have a negative effect on nonwhite students, as they were more likely to opt-in for remote learning, which will now have less resources and focus than before.
Meanwhile, the rule of two unrelated virus cases closing schools for ten days is set to remain in place, a rule that has closed hundreds of schools temporarily in recent weeks.
As of Friday, the city was experiencing a 6.47 percent seven-day positivity rate, but just 5.07 percent on Friday alone.
Teachers will not be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine before going into schools, but the option has been available to them since January.