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New York City elementary schools reopen for in-person classes but threaten new epidemics

But at the same time, new Covid-19 clusters in several neighborhoods with large Orthodox Jewish communities are causing alarm among health officials and could quickly cause city schools to close.

New York City’s daily positivity rate rose to 3.25%, the first time it has exceeded 3% in months, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday. The 7-day moving average positivity rate is 1.38%. If the 7-day rate exceeds 3%, de Blasio said the city will close all schools.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he will meet with religious leaders from the Orthodox community along with local officials to discuss the groupings.

“This is a concern for their community – public health concern for their community ̵

1; (and) it’s also a public health concern for surrounding communities,” he said.

“The cluster today can be spread to the community tomorrow,” added Cuomo.

The possibility of a new outbreak would be a major blow to the city, which has attempted to safely reopen public schools for in-person learning.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio visits Public School 188 in Manhattan on Tuesday as elementary school reopens.
After two previous delays, Tuesday’s opening for elementary schools is the second wave of a three-part reopening plan for 1.1 million students and 75,000 teachers in the city. Last week, preschoolers and some children with special needs were allowed to re-enter the buildings, and middle and high schools are expected to return for in-person learning on Thursday.

Outside of Public School 089 in Queens, Anahi Benitez said she felt comfortable with security protocols and was thrilled to bring her daughter Leah Sophia for her first day of class in person.

“It’s different from last year, but we’re confident the school is doing everything it can for the children to stay safe,” he told CNN.

In-person education is limited: A hybrid program has students in class only a few days a week, with the rest of their learning online. About 54% of students participate in that blended model, while 46% have opted for completely distance learning, according to the results of the New York Department of Education’s latest preference survey.

However, with in-person classes, New York has taken a step that no other major city has ever attempted. The Los Angeles Unified School District and Chicago Public Schools, the nation’s second and third largest school systems, have both been remotely opened.

Concerns about outbreaks

The plan is not without risk. According to the Department of Education, staff in at least 150 New York school buildings have already tested positive for Covid-19. School buildings with employee infections include early education centers which are independent, community-based organizations that work with the city’s education department to provide a free, high-quality full-day pre-K, he said earlier. a city official on CNN.

“As we continue to navigate the realities of a pandemic, there will be positive cases – we are putting people’s health above all else by quickly identifying and isolating positive cases to prevent further transmission,” DOE spokeswoman Miranda Barbot said. .

“Starting in October, all schools will have mandatory monthly random tests to continue to keep transmission low and our communities safe.”

Anyone entering New York schools will need to complete screening, the buildings have had their ventilation systems updated and have been reconfigured to allow for greater social distancing, the city’s Department of Education said. There are also protocols for closing classrooms or multiple areas in the event that someone tests positive for the coronavirus.
New York City Schools & # 39; returning to classes in person leaves parents with difficult choices

Despite these assurances, many teachers and school staff were lacking faith in the mayor and education officials’ plan, which was delayed twice at the last minute.

On Sunday, the New York City School Principals and Administrators Union declared a unanimous vote of no confidence to Mayor Bill de Blasio and the school chancellor and called for action from the state education department.

Parents also voiced their concerns on CNN.
“I’m not 100% convinced that schools are fully, properly sanitized and ready for children,” said Vanessa Nisperos, whose 8-year-old twin children attend Public School 139 in Brooklyn.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Monday that the state will provide 200 rapid test machines in areas where virus clusters have been identified and urged schools to request one if needed.

“We are about to receive the daily test numbers, so we will be able to tell on a daily basis what is actually happening with the test in New York schools with both teachers and pupils,” he said. “We will act prudently on the basis of the numbers, but I have the concern of the principals union and we will follow the numbers very closely.”

Cuomo said the state would intervene if necessary.

“What we’re seeing now with this Brooklyn cluster, we have to go all the way. But the data is critical and we will act on the data.”

CNN’s Mirna Alsharif, Evan McMorris-Santoro, and Yon Pomrenze contributed to this report.

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