NYC still deciding how to teach quarantined kids this school year

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The city is still devising an instructional plan for quarantined kids this upcoming school year with weeks to spare — a delay that has heightened calls for a remote learning option.

Mayor de Blasio said Tuesday that the Department of Education is deciding how to teach COVID-19 positive kids during their mandated 10-day absences from school.

Speaking at his daily press briefing, de Blasio said a new parent handbook is forthcoming — but stressed that there will be no formal remote learning option.

“We certainly have a lot of instructional materials that we can make available any time a child needs to quarantine,” he said. “We’re working through exactly what that’s going to be. But, unquestionably, if a child is quarantined there will be instructional options for them.”

City officials ranging have called for the readying of a remote learning contingency.
Christopher Sadowski

With parental uncertainty mounting due to the spread of Delta variant, officials ranging from state Sen. John Liu to Queens Borough President Donovan Richards have called for the readying of a remote learning contingency.

But de Blasio has repeatedly rejected those calls and instead highlighted the need for wider vaccinations.

“That’s where our focus is,” he said.

Asked if he feared that a remote option would suppress attendance, de Blasio said the city’s schools are safe and that some opinions to the contrary are fueled by “misinformation.”

A general view of a public school elementary school student using a laptop to participate in a remote learning class.
Mayor de Blasio said the city’s schools are safe and that some opinions to the contrary are fueled by “misinformation.”
Christopher Sadowski

“There’s distancing, there’s cleaning, there’s ventilation,” he said. “There’s mask wearing. And there’s massive levels of vaccination.”

Hizzoner stressed Tuesday that the number of kids who will face quarantine this year will drop drastically due to the availability of COVID-19 vaccines and mandated shots for all teachers.

Asymptomatic students who have been vaccinated will not have to quarantine even if they share a classroom with an infected classmate.

A general view of a grammar school student participating in a remote learning class.
Asymptomatic students who have been vaccinated will not have to quarantine even if they share a classroom with an infected classmate.
Christopher Sadowski

De Blasio was asked on NY1 Monday night about the DOE’s preparedness for a “doomsday” scenario where an entire school had to be shuttered due to an outbreak.

The mayor said such closures are not an inevitability — but that last year’s experience has prepared the agency for all situations.

“If a school at any point was closed, of course we know how to do remote,” he said. “We’ve done it before. We know its limitations also, but at least I can say practically, technically of course we know how to do it.”

De Blasio said there are no plans to mandate shots for kids to attend school at this stage, but called on federal officials to prioritize a vaccine for kids aged 5 to 11.

“Here’s the thing I care about the most,” he said. “And the thing we need the most. We need an accelerated, focused effort at the federal level to get the vaccination ready for 5 to 11-year-olds. This is the game changer we really need.”

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