New York Was the 1st Big School District to Reopen. Here’s What Happened.
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New York Was the 1st Big School District to Reopen. Here’s What Happened.

For Julie Zuckerman, the principal of an elementary school in Manhattan, last summer it felt like a day was never ending and confusion and confusion about plans to resume person-teaching in New York City Was the situation. But in the months following the opening of classes in September, something has changed.

School teachers at Public School 513 in Washington Heights appear more comfortable, and some say they would prefer to remain in their classrooms even when the building is closed due to coronovirus cases. Parents, too, seem more confident: About half of the students are in the building most days, less than a third in September.

Ms. Zuckerman hopes that more children will return this spring.

“People have made their peace; They are not in the same way, ”she said. “I think there is a big night-day difference between what was happening last spring and what happened this year.”

To be pushed to new york Country’s first major school district There was a high-stakes and risky experiment to reopen previous classes. It had its share of miscommunication, logistic stumbling and disruption – especially when classrooms and school buildings are often closed due to cases of the virus.

But in the interview, parents, teachers, principals and union leaders also provided reasons for optimism at the midpoint of the academic year. In-school transmission of coronaviruses has been very low, and there has also been widespread agreement that children have benefited from being in classrooms.

Ms. Zuckerman said, “Having children here is much better for them all.”

The strength of the plan will be tested again in the coming weeks, as is around 62,000 Middle school students are scheduled to return to classes For the first time since November. New York provides a clear preview of what other large city districts are in the United States – Most prominently chicago, Where more schools are expected to open next month – after about a year of distance education can expect close to inches to reopen classrooms.

Despite President Biden’s insistence on reopening this business, some districts – including Los Angeles, the nation’s second largest system – are not yet planned to reopen all this school year. On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Said school should open as soon as possibleEspecially for young children. The CDC found that teacher vaccines are not a prerequisite for reopening, a finding that has so far been supported by New York’s safety records.

As guidance, teachers unions across the country have continued to pursue the plan again.

Districts that reopen to students in the coming weeks and months find that this is just a first step. New Yorkers have struggled to cope with frequent interruptions to learning – and parental programs – when virus cases are detected between students or staff members and classrooms and distance learning throughout school buildings. Is forced into.

If two unrelated positive cases are confirmed in a building, the city requires schools for up to 10 days. Individual classrooms are closed when one or more positive cases are detected.

The number of closed classrooms and schools has increased significantly over the past few weeks, as test positivity rates across the city have remained high and school testing has increased weekly.

Between 4 January and Wednesday, 580 out of 1,052 NOS buildings remained closed for two weeks. More than 400 school buildings have not ended in the new year.

Miss Zuckerman said that her school, for example, is open for only 10 in-person days in 2021.

The rule was developed at a time when it was not clear whether Mayor Bill de Blasio had political support to reopen schools and when there was little evidence that schools could safely reopen. The protocol was part of a package of safeguards, agreed over the summer with union leaders Allowed New York City to open its school in the first place.

Mr. de Blasio said earlier this month that he would “reevaluate” the two-case rule, though city officials said it was far less likely that security measures would change before middle schools reopened.

For parents of elementary school children, the reopening experience has prompted a roller coaster of emotions: frustration at the threshold of distance education; The joy of seeing your children back in classrooms; And frustration with the chaos caused by the closure.

Last month, for example, Hien Sosa finally received the news that her son could soon serve full time in his first grade class in East Elmhurst, Queens.

Hospital nurse Ms. Sosa said, “I felt like, wow, I feel like I won the lottery.” She and her husband, a police officer, could not stay at home when their son learned from afar. Ms. Sosa’s mother, who helps with child care, speaks limited English and has trouble supervising her grandchildren’s lessons. Ms Sosa said she felt “ready to give up”.

But her relief about the new schedule was short-lived. Just days after her son went to school five days a week, Ms. Sosa found out that the school would be closed for 10 days as two people in the building tested positive.

He returned a few days ago and came home happy at the end of the day. Ms. Sosa said, “I know he gets some real education, just a regular school day like he always was.” But he said he felt like he was on loan until the school was closed again.

As proximity has grown, some parents have called on the city to change the rules. But the city’s influential teachers union has strictly opposed any changes, saying the schools are safe because of the closure.

But the union, the United Federation of Teachers, may face increasing pressure to accept a change in the rule as more teachers are vaccinated against coronaviruses. According to the union spokesperson, the union has arranged for about 15,500 teachers to be vaccinated directly, while many other teachers have received their shots through regular channels.

Even before vaccines arrived in New York, city schools had not seen high transmission; The average test positivity rate in city schools was .55 percent between October and last Thursday. The seven-day citywide average hovers around 8 percent.

The data is partially explained by a randomized weekly trial of asymptomatic students and staff members, resulting in lower rates than citywide testing of people who are showing symptoms or think they have been exposed to the virus .

But school data has also changed this view, Widely held by health experts, That classrooms can be relatively safe if teachers apply safety measures such as wearing masks and social disturbances, which are required in city schools.

After Mr. de Blasio Shut down the whole system In mid-November due to growing virus cases, they reopened classrooms for children with complex disabilities and elementary school in December. Recently, he announced that the middle schools would reopen on 25 February.

City officials say most middle schools will be able to accommodate several students five days a week. There are 878 primary schools and about 500 schools for children with disabilities which are already open, serving the majority of students full time.

It is unclear whether the city’s high schools will reopen this school year.

Once both elementary and middle schools are open, approximately one million students from the city’s up to 250,000 will be able to return to classrooms. Nevertheless, most families in the city – about 70 percent – have decided to keep their children learning from home for the rest of the school year. White students, who make up the minority of the overall system, Open classrooms are overpressed.

Chloe Davis, a teacher in the Parkchester section of the Bronx, said that her primary school has been closed several times since Thanksgiving. This prompted some families to shift to distance education to gain continuity.

“We couldn’t find a rhythm,” he said. The Ms. Davis School shares one building with two others, and if any of the two students test positive at any of the three schools, the entire building is closed.

The closing section is particularly frustrating for working parents such as Alyssa Muniz, a pediatrician and single parent of a second-grader in Washington Heights. Ms Muniz said that her son, who receives special education services, had been in her class for less than 30 days since September.

“I can’t tell you how many times the school is closed; That’s a ton, “he said. “It doesn’t just disrupt home life. I am someone who has the responsibility of being a person at work. For this we sometimes need more flexibility. “

Ms. Muñiz has seen her son, an only child, when he stays in classrooms with his friends. But he is easily distracted and restless when he goes back to online learning. She wants her to ask the mayor, “How can we help children who are not making progress?”

New York teachers say they are working harder to address that question than at any other point in their careers.

Tiffany Koo, who teaches at an elementary school in the former village, decided last year to take sole responsibility for a staff shortage at her school, and a group of students learning online. She livestreams her lessons daily from her class so that all students can read together and spend nights and weekends working on lesson plans.

“I never regret it, but it has been incredibly chaotic and difficult at times,” she said of her schedule. “I’m taking it day by day.”

Some days are trying more than others. About two weeks ago, Ms. Koo found out that two of her students had the virus. “It was a shock to the system,” she said. “We are all so tired that we are non-stop realizing that the risk is still there.”

Some days, Ms. Koo is not sure if the re-opening trade-off is worth it. Still, she understands that so many parents and students want the classroom to open as soon as possible. She just asks that New Yorkers be patient.

“We all wish it was different,” she said. “Let’s just be kind to each other.” We are all trying to do the best that we can. “

Juliana Kim contributed reporting.



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