New York (CNN) – New York City elementary school students returned to classrooms with masks, temperature controls, and hand sanitizers on Tuesday as the nation’s largest school district tries to open schools safely amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
Outside of Public School 89 in Queens, Anahi Benítez said she was comfortable with security protocols and was excited to bring her daughter Leah Sophia on her first day of classes in person.
“It is different from last year, but we are sure that the school is doing everything possible to keep the children safe,” he told CNN.
Then from two previous delaysTuesday’s opening for elementary schools is the second wave of a three-part reopening plan for the city’s 1.1 million students and 75,000 teachers. Last week, preschoolers and some children with special needs were allowed back into the buildings, and middle and high schools are scheduled to return Thursday for in-person learning.
Back to school will be limited
A hybrid schedule has students in the classroom only a few days a week, and the rest of their learning will be online. About 54% of students are participating in that blended model, while 46% have opted for fully remote learning, according to the latest results from the New York City Department of Education’s preference survey.
Still, with face-to-face classes, New York has taken a step that no other major city has attempted. The Los Angeles Unified School District and Chicago Public Schools, the second and third largest school systems in the country, opened remotely.
The plan is not without risks
According to the Department of Education (DOE), staff at at least 150 school facilities in New York City have already tested positive for COVID-19. School sites with contagion from employees include early education centers, which are independent community-based organizations that partner with the city’s Department of Education to provide free, high-quality, full-day pre-kindergarten, he previously told CNN a city official.
“As we continue to navigate the realities of a pandemic, there will be positive cases; we are putting people’s health first by quickly identifying and isolating positive cases to prevent further transmission, “said DOE spokeswoman Miranda Barbot.
“Starting in October, all schools will have mandatory monthly random tests to continue to keep transmission low and our communities safe.”
Concerns about covid-19 outbreaks
Everyone entering New York City schools will have to complete the assessment, the building ventilation systems were updated and reconfigured to allow for greater social distancing, said the Department of Education from the city. There are also protocols to close classrooms or more areas in case someone tests positive for coronavirus.
Despite those assurances, many teachers and school staff have not trusted the plan put forward by the mayor and education officials, 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 against De Blasio and the director of the city’s Department of Education and called for the state Department of Education to intervene.
Parents have also raised concerns to CNN.
“I am not 100% convinced that schools are completely and adequately disinfected and prepared for children,” she said Vanessa Nisperos, whose 8-year-old twin boys attend Public School 139 in Brooklyn.
The overall rate of positive tests for covid-19 in New York City is around 1%, but the outbreaks in parts of Brooklyn and Queens have alarmed and concerned health officials.
“Action will be taken if necessary”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that the state would provide 200 rapid test machines to areas where clusters of the virus have been identified and urged schools to request one if needed.
“We are going to receive daily test numbers, so we can tell day by day what is really happening with the test in New York City schools, with both teachers and students,” he said. “We will be prudent based on the numbers, but I welcome the concern of the directors union and we will be watching the numbers very closely.”
Cuomo said the state would take action if necessary.
“What we’re seeing now with this Brooklyn cluster, we have to get to the bottom of that. But data is key and we will act on data. ‘
– CNN’s Mirna Alsharif, Evan McMorris-Santoro and Yon Pomrenze contributed to this report.